Friday, June 4, 2010

New teachers' contract

From the PG:


Old Timer said...

Simply put, I don't like this contract proposal. As usual, it does not go far enough in rewarding teachers for the incredible amount of stress being placed upon them by central administration and yet oddly enough, central administrators--who aren't in the classroom and whose very jobs aren't being threatened by unsatisfactory standardized test scores, or by failing to adhere to curricula which unfortunately does not coincide with the needs of students as they prepare to take those tests, ARE paid handsomely.

I know that Mr.Tarka will point to places like Kansas City, where half of the schools in the district were recently marked for closure. I know he will point to places like Cincinnati, where teachers willingly took salary cuts in excess of $10K to save their jobs, to places like Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles, where salary cuts and staff reductions have become yearly news items. But the analogies simply don't apply to Pittsburgh.

Unlike those other districts, Pittsburgh is awash in money. The Gates Foundation has provided $40 million dollars. PPS had to come up with another $40 million to match that fund. The Pittsburgh Promise is a multi million dollar entity. The state will be sending a large check, as well. Tarka would likely say that these monies are not applicable to salaries, or that base salaries can be augmented by merit pay thanks to these monies. Both arguments carry little water.

How is it that administrators are making over $100K--in some case near $120K--for performance that is by its very nature dependent on the teaching staff in the school???
With regards to merit pay, this remains a gray area in the tentative agreement and one area that places far too much power in the hands of a building principal. You will pardon me for saying that we are far removed from the era when principals and teachers felt some sort of mutual allegiance. Instead, the PELA model has spent a great deal of time instructing would-be principals in the art of intimidation and in the idea of pushing teachers where "curriculum fidelity" is concerned. The latter point being, if you are not teaching the curriculum verbatim, we will deem you as "ineffective" and visit your classes on a daily basis.

Sorry, but you want to put the power of merit pay decision making in the hands of these people.

Additionally, the tentative agreement amounts to a $75 (before taxes) per paycheck raise for teachers--and this is really the only area one can count on. Again, I understand that we are in difficult economic times and you need to understand that I didn't get into education for the money, but there is no administrator who can do what I or any good teacher does on a daily basis. This scenario is much like paying Joe Girardi substantially more than A-Rod on the Yankees. It's almost humorous.


A real contract proposal would have at least cost of living increases throughout the five years of the deal. It would explain the parameters of merit pay in much more concrete terms. It would spell out the teaching staff's idea that canned curriculum does not address what students need to know for tests like PSSA's and that some new format needs to be enacted, with greater teacher input (Have you ever looked at the high school Englsih curriculum, for example? If you know what the PSSA's are all about, you can only wonder who writes such fantasy)

The tentative contract needs to address teacher concern about 50% grading rules. It needs to safeguard teachers from "learning walks" and needs to protect teachers from being placed on improvement plans which by and large are roads to career oblivion.
The language needs to be there, but unfortunately is not.

I cannot vote for this proposal. Take care of your teachers, John. Remember that it is in their best interests for which you work. Attain better raises--we deserve it. Protect your people from administrators whose very reason for being in their roles was to escape the rigors of being teachers.

Questioner said...

Is it true that the plan is to bring in many more "non traditional" teachers?

Watching the Ship Sink said...

I am a Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher. And I am insulted by the proposed contract. But not for the reason you may think.

Huge sections of the contract are devoted to performance pay. And that insults me, as it implies that I must be bribed to do my best.

Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Tarka, like 99% of my fellow teachers, I am already giving it my all. I end every school day physically and mentally exhausted.

But the new contract implies that we teachers are the reason scores are low. No other reason needs to be looked at.

Questioner said...

Many of us have long argued that the best amount of test improvement for the money would come from addressing issues that prevent students from arriving at school ready to learn- including medical, behavioral, emotional and family issues.

A recent PG article talked about a program where local businesses donated beds for children who had nowhere to sleep and could not stay awake at school. It's not clear how a financial incentive to teachers would have solved the problem.

Anonymous said...

Old Timer, I would like to comment on several of the issues you brought up in your post.

I am a current parent and former Pittsburgh resident. I am very interested in education and also try my best to stay very informed.

I did not want my children to attend PPS is because of the following reasons:

1. If my child does nothing, then he deserves nothing - not 50% to make him feel good (current PPS grading policy). What kind of preparation are they getting for the future if they think they can earn something for nothing? I know I don't get half of my paycheck for doing nothing!

2. If my child's teacher feels they need to do something other than what is in the curriculum to reach my kid, then they should have that liberty - isn't that what they went to college for??? (Current PPS teachers do not have that liberty.)

3. I do not want my child to watch other children disrespect teachers by calling them names and cussing at them and have NO consequences for their behavior - and think that is acceptable (administrative decision - nothing to do with the teachers).

4. I want the district my children attend to be run by someone who has experience in the classroom as a teacher, as an administrator, and is not just a business man whose actions revolve around money (current superintendent).

5. I want the district my children attend to respect the teachers and listen to their feedback and concerns as they are on the front line every day.

There is more, but you are getting my point. The reason for not sending my own kids to PPS has NOTHING to do with the teaching staff. Other parents need to realize that. People not involved in education need to realize that when they decide to open their mouth and criticize teachers. Do other parents and the general public realize just how little input (if any) the PPS teachers, who have their kids EVERY DAY, have?

It looks and sounds as though the new contract proposal does not address any of these issues. That is ashame. My question is when will the teacher's union stand up and begin to address these issues? When will they demand respect for their teachers? I understand that a union is to look out for the employees. However, a lot of these issues sound like they are directly related to the employees and their work environment. It is ashame that they are not addressed in the current proposal.

I have a lot of friends who teach in the city. It is ashame that more people are not aware of what goes on behind the scenes. People are so quick to pass judgement - teachers are lazy, teachers complain. Until you are in their shoes or know someone who is a teacher, others should not be so quick to pass judgement and say what teachers should and shouldn't do.

I also know teachers who are in other districts as well as school board members in other districts. They cannot believe some of the things that go on in the city schools related to curriculum, grading policy, and administration.

I think that the union and the administration should be very careful. Before they know it, the many good teachers they have and the families who have parents that care about their child's education will be looking to leave the city.

What fool thinks that paying these teachers more money (performance or merit pay) is going to make them a better teacher? Any fool who believes that doesn't know what goes on in the classrooms everyday. Good teachers are good teachers. Period. It has nothing to do with money. Bad teachers are bad teachers. Period. No money or performance pay is going to make them better.

Mark Rauterkus said...

If you (teacher and/or principal) are giving your all and didn't oust others for doing much less, then you are not giving your all.

And, the proposal is 'real.'

But, where is it, exactly?

Any public URLs?

Yes, good teachers are good teachers regardless of the money paid. But, it is stupid to pay the good teacher the same as the bad teacher when the value delivered is not even close to each other. Is is dumb to have the pay check be equal when the performce is unequal. So, this is a step to smarter decisions and rewards with employee pay amounts. The extra motivation is but a spit in the ocean as to the amount of motivation it delivers. But, it is an instututional shift in values made public.

Old Timer said...

You know Mr.Rauterkus, your commentary is so full of inaccuracies, distortions, misconceptions and stereotypes that it would normally warrant no response from me. And yet, I thank you for providing the commentary. To me at least, it is important for all dedicated teachers to see what they are up against. It's important for them to see that not only is the Roosevelt propaganda machine hard at work in screaming "All is well" as Rome burns, but there are also parents who will make broad, sweeping commentaries based largely upon experiences that their own children had and/or based upon what their own children told them about a teacher.
I am sure you have been all across this district and in classrooms which could only be called "challenging". I am sure that you have made it a point to become acclimated as to the composition of students and their abilities within those classrooms before deeming what is "effective" and what is "ineffective." I am sure that you have spent hours poring over various curricula and becoming cognizant of district requirements before determining what is "good" and "bad" in teachers. I am sure that you have taken into account issues such as administrative support of teachers in difficult learning environments, and I am just as sure that you have spent more than 10 minutes in a given teacher's classroom before determining what is exemplary and what is substandard.

Please tell me that you have done these things. Please tell me that the posting you have provided here--a true character assassination of the teaching profession--isn't all you have.

Having been across this district over my career, Mr.Rauterkus, let me say that most if not all of the teachers I have encountered are dedicated professionals with a positive concern for their students, no matter how jaundiced the views of their parents might be. I'm not sure what your agenda is, but while uninformed viewpoints like what you have provided may have been the norm in your school days, what you have in the district's schools today are teachers of the highest regard.

Questioner said...

There are people in every profession who aren't very good... even presidents who aren't very good... so why wouldn't there occaisionally be a teacher who isn't very good> It's true that it might be difficult to fairly identify those teachers, and that a more positive and supportive response than what seems to be in the works could be chosen. but that's no reason to blast someone for referring to bad teachers.

Anonymous said...

A few months ago three parents presented the parent perspective on EET/RISE at an EFA meeting held at Allderdice. I was prepared to cringe as the presenter used the words GOOD and BAD applied to teachers. NEVER once did the presenter use either description. He used terms like "less effective" to describe what we keep hearing as a "bad teacher" and I was grateful for it. So just like parents who will make "broad sweeping commentaries" there are those of us who do understand the challenges of teaching in PPS and wish that the decision-makers would stop thinking they can fix everything with words strung together to make the latest catch phrase.

Questioner said...

The marketing and catch phrases do get annoying. like we are being manipulated.

But focusing on one of those catch phrases- "all children can learn at a high level"- maybe there should also be a sense that "all (or almost all) teachers can teach at a high level". Without a supportive environment for teacher, how can we expect teachers to create a supportive environment for students?

Anonymous said...

Questioner, You are absolutely correct that there are good and bad employees in every profession. There is no exception to that in education. That is true for teachers, administrators, school board members, and superintendents. The problem is that the focus lately is always on the teachers. Always.

I would agree with Old Timer that M.R.'s comments are laughable. The only problem with saying that is lack of knowledge is never funny.

If and when there is a struggling teacher, there are two things that should be done. First, everyone should support that teacher and try to help them improve their practice. If that does not help, then it is the job of administration to do what any "boss" would do. That being said, it is not the job of a peer to "oust" a peer as M.R. stated - one of his many ignorant statements.

To say to pay the "good teachers" more than the "bad teachers" is another ridiculous statement. What qualifies someone as "good or bad"? What if a teacher has chosen to take on the most difficult of students vs. the gifted students? In many cases it looks like the teacher of the gifted students is the "better" teacher.

Let's discuss the "Institutional shift in values". There has been a shift in values. More often than not in urban areas, education is not valued. Watch kids coming and leaving the high schools. How many come late? How many leave early? How many carry nothing with them because it doesn't look "cool" to carry school books/work? How many parents never show their face in the school building during the entire time their child is there?

That is not to say there are not caring parents who value education and students who value education. They exist. Sadly, they are just not the majority. Again, watch the high schools on open house days. The very few adults you see coming and going are those few who do still care and value education.

In any other profession that requires a college degree: doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer, etc., the general public does not feel the need to tell them how to do their job. Why does everyone feel that they can tell teachers how to do their job?

Teachers do not pick their students - they teach whoever comes their way from the kind, caring, gifted student to the convicted felon. Teachers in PPS cannot pick their tools to teach their students. They have to use the curriculum they are given and if they do not, they are put on a hit-list. Education is not a business and should not be treated as such.

Most of the teachers I know teach because they cannot imagine doing anything else. They feel a fierce devotion to their students. They believe in the power of public education. They do not do it for the money. Honestly, no money is worth what many of them deal with on a daily basis.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Twist away at your own risk.

If my commentary is so full of "inaccuracies, distortions, misconceptions and stereotypes" -- it would be good to have you point ONE of them out rather than just say 'Rome is burning.'

And, I'm glad you took the bait. You fell into the trap. Next time, go straight to comparisons to Hitler.

I won't scream, "All is well." Not me. Never have. More disconnect. Your unforced errors in conversation is killing your credit.

We WANT broad comentary here rather than micro statements based upon one child. The UNION and the BARGAIN is all about broadness. Of course you can make broad comentary -- (i.e., inaccuracies, distortions, misconceptions and stereotypes) -- without basis or specifics.

My little blog posting is not an assisnation of a profession, but it did a great job of putting a light upon those with paranoid reactions.

You prove my point by saying that MOST are professionals. I agreee. Yet my point was what are you doing about the others? When you can come back and say that ALL of the teachers are professional and effective, then you can have credit with what I posted.

It is clear that you are not sure about my agenda as you didn't even read nor understand what I wrote to make such unfounded leaps in your reply.

And, again, if I'm uninformed, as you claim, why only toss stones at the messenger and not the message? That is the ploy of a punk. Enlighten teacher.

M.R. stated, "If you (teacher and/or principal)". IGNORANT is to not READ the whole statement.
It was NOT ONLY the job of the teacher. My statement included the PRINCIPAL. And, NEVER is it ALWAYS the blame of ONLY on the TEACHERS. Duhh.

Please bring your "A game" and do try logic within your messages.

Old Timer said...

Mr.Rauterkus, one hardly needs an "A game"to debate with you. I would say that numerous high school students offer a greater challenge, especially in the area of putting forth an informed critique.

That said, your first paragraph told readers all they needed to know about you and your mindset:

"If you(teacher and/or principal) are giving your all and didn't oust others for doing much less, then you are not giving your all."

Thank you for your bit of pretzel logic.

I'm unsure as to why you chose to tramp on this thread other than to remind readers that you are here. I would go into the rest of your rebuttal but clearly, it falls so beneath the conversation at hand and the points made earlier that it is almost akin to paying heed to a heckler.

Best of luck in whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.

Questioner said...

Please can we all stay on topic and not get sidetracked by attacks on eachother.

Anonymous said...

This is how I "read" the new contract: teachers already on board keep their step 10 scale and $1,500/year raise for 5 years. They, however, have no support system (PFT) and are subject to being focused and let go. New teachers (7/1/10) have a new scale and a chance for "bonuses" so that after 10 years they "could" make $100,000.
They, however, don't get raises unless they meet certain criteria. (test scores) Again they have no union support.

I'm guessing that "veteran" teachers will get out if they can. (and are smart) The new teachers may be left out to dry. They can lose their job if "perceived" to be ineffective.

The PFT will not be "empowered." Roosevelt and Gates rule the day. Now I ask, if you were a new teacher, would you want to roll the dice and teach in this system, or would you apply elsewhere where there is more stability and less change year to year?

Remember, your job depends on students' test scores...

Mark Rauterkus said...

"Peer review," a long held and valued academic tradition, must not wash with the Old Timer.

Too academic for you?

I guess certain priest and bishops in parts of the RC Church have said the same thing and felt the same emotions as Old Timer too. At least they get to pray that those sins of others in their ranks wouldn't happen again.

Old Timer's coping strategy: turning up the gross ridicule dial.

I guess teachers who are insulted with performance pay in their contracts now are equally insulated by self-desitny. It is goofy to think high paid administrators should NOT be the one's to dish out bonus money to teachers yet peer review is pretzel logic. So, should students pass out bonus pay? Or, should everyone be paid the same (sans bonus) despite the results?

Or, are those OT objections really just about greed and envy as "Pittsburgh is awash in money".

Anonymous said...

This is a 5 year contract. Do you really think Roosevelt and Tarka will be in their positions in 5 years? I don't. Where will our system be then and will they even care? They will be gone and we will be left holding the bag.

Questioner said...

Is that 100k adjusted for inflation? If not, then in real dollars the 100k in 10 years may not be much more than they are earning in year one.

Also, does the contract for new teachers require longer hours or more days?

Anonymous said...

The contract for new teachers does not require more time/days. However, the "voluntary opportunities" to earn the money do require more time and more days. And, that money is not a sure thing. It is based on performance. Performance will be based on standardized test scores and other measures that are not yet determined.

Many things in the new proposed contract are not yet determined and thousands of teachers are being asked to just trust that the union leadership along with central administration will do a good job in creating fair measures of teacher performance. That is asking a lot.

To-date there is not one place that has successfully implemented performance pay for teachers. Don't believe me? Look it up. Why? Simply because education is not a business. There are just too many factors out of the teacher's control. This is true in any district, not just urban. You can pay the teachers extra money for working extra time, and you can pay for the programs, but you cannot make the kids come. YOu can't make the kids care. It is not like working longer hours to be top in sales and earn that performance pay.

Longer hours and harder work in education do not always see the same results as they do in a business. If that were the case, almost all of the teachers would be rich and the kids would be gifted.

Just Passing Through said...

Mark R's June 7 9:11 PM post, in part:

"I guess certain priest and bishops in parts of the RC Church have said the same thing and felt the same emotions as Old Timer too. At least they get to pray that those sins of others in their ranks wouldn't happen again."

Is this an attempt to somehow link a teacher's educational concerns with the alleged child abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church?

If it is (and what else can it mean?), it is a filthy and despicable insult.

It is in no way a proportional response to the admittedly strong challenges other posters have made to Mr. R.'s posts.

Again, the attempt to link a teacher's concerns to a child abuse scandal is filthy and despicable.

I would ask the moderator of this otherwise excellent forum to please caution Mark R. about this.

Questioner said...

The point of the analogy seems to be that members of a particular group want to believe that no one in their group would fall so short of what is expected of them; the exact nature of the expectations and the shortcomings is not really relevant. That said, it is understandable that a group of professionals working with children would not want to be compared in any way to a group of RC priests with pedophiles in their midst.

Anonymous said...

Questioner, readers know that you allow Rauterkus a great deal of leeway in his "postings", for whatever reason. In this thread however, he is proving to be an embarrassment. He has provided opinions based upon stereotypes and hearsay, and as others have said, really has no business here other than to heckle.

The analogy you seek to clarify is symbolic of his willingness to drop into the gutter to make his "points". I am disappointed that you would rather expound upon the comment than take issue with the individual's choice for comparison. Shame on you.

Where Mr.Rauterkus is concerned, if this is his 'A' game, then it is truly like arguing with a child. Indeed, one could find more informed opinions at a local bowling alley.

bystander said...

"Many things in the new proposed contract are not yet determined and thousands of teachers are being asked to just trust that the union leadership along with central administration will do a good job in creating fair measures of teacher performance. That is asking a lot." Hey, that may be true but at least it was finished on-time and nobody negotiated through the night or anything. I am not a teacher, just a bystander but comments like the one Anonymous made reminds me how the meaning of a sentence can change depending on which words are emphasized when the sentence is read. Sounds a lot like the contract should be read and analyzed with this in mind. Good luck to all.

Questioner said...

A+ Schools has expressed strong support for the proposed contract. A recent A+ email refers to "A+ research about the teaching system... and why we support the plan." But, if you go to the research link:

- it focuses on the issue of vulnerable schools having a higher teacher turnover rate and receiving less experienced teachers. The research report makes a number of excellent suggestions to address that problem. While the proposed contract may help with implementation of some of these suggestions, the jump to endorsement of the entire proposed contract does not seem to be supported by the research described.

A+ Schools
In This Issue
Call to Action! Show your support!
Nominate a Student for SEL

If You Love Great Teaching, Then Say So!

Show your support this week while 3,400 teachers and other professionals are casting their ballots for the tentative agreement between the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The agreement addresses ways that elements of the EET plan that are subject to collective bargaining will be implemented. For example, the tentative agreement spells out how our most effective teachers can opt into 'career ladder roles' where they will teach the students who need them most while supporting the development of other teachers. The agreement also includes ways that teachers can, if they choose to participate in a voluntary performance pay plan, earn bonuses for exemplary work.

Other elements of the EET plan include a new teacher evaluation system, improvements to recruiting and hiring of teachers, better information technology, a teacher academy for the ongoing development of current teachers and training of new teachers, and most importantly improved teaching and learning environments in every school. The EET plan and the collective bargaining agreement work together to insure every student in the Pittsburgh Public Schools benefits from excellent classroom instruction.

1. If you have one of the A+ Schools "I love great teaching" t-shirts, please wear your shirt this week and tell a teacher that you support the plan to empower effective teachers.

2. Sign our online petition to show you support great teaching and the Empowering Effective Teachers (EET) plan

3. Learn more about the Empowering Effective Teachers Plan

4. Read the tentative collective bargaining agreement

5. Learn more about A+ Schools research about the teaching system in Pittsburgh and why we support this plan

6. Forward this email to friends and colleagues

The time is now! Please show you care today!

Anonymous said...

An excellent summary someone posted on another blog.

My question is: Why, when were ranked 7th in the country for bringing test scores up and the district meeting AYP for first time, would the union propose a contract that includes stipulations that takes away building seniority (Section 2. part D of Additional Seniority Considerations) and limits or eliminates any transfers out out the Career Ladder positions. For example if I choose to be a member of the PRC team and after 2 years decide I do not want to participate, I will be displaced if no openings are available at my school. There are other questions that remain to be seen as indicated by many of your posts. From my perspective the entire contract is a power grab by the PPS that enables them to hire and fire at will. I am curious to find out what percentage of teachers were proposed to be displaced in the Gates proposal. The Hillsborough County District who received 100 million from Gates proposed they would displace 5% of all teachers yearly for 5 years ! What was the % in PPS proposal ? Just wondering. Finally, I am very disheartened by this proposal. I would find it very hard to vote for a program that will evaluate me and the evaluation is not even developed. That would be like taking a job without any job description.
The teacher academy is a tool that will enable PPS to hire and fire at their discretion. By certifying their chosen people in math, science, and special education, they will bring in their own people to replace those that will surly be exited with the subjective Rise evaluation. This open ended farce will be a tool to use against those who are targeted as non-conformers, or anyone else that any administrator may dislike. for any number of reasons.
Let me finish by saying this entire "Empowering" program does nothing to empower us at all. The only entity to get empowered will be PPS. There are no real solutions to solve what the real problem is. Until the focus is removed from teachers and put on the kids and their supports from the home, nothing will change. I see no programs to address kids behaviors, attendance, or motivation. Until the real issue of kids behaviors and how they affect teaching in the classroom is addressed nothing will change.
In summary this is what I see. A contact that contains the tools for PPS to hire and fire as they seem fit.(Eval & Academy) A second pay schedule that will torture new teachers to jump through hoops to move up the pay scale and obtain tenure, and a system where those now teaching will be eliminated through evaluations, early retirements or quit out of frustration. (The proposal states it as "systematically exiting teachers") I am sure Mr Gates has asked for and received the percentage of teachers the district will try to exit. We did not see the entire proposal, just the teacher edition!!!
The union has agreed to make us a guinea pig. The political element of this entire mess is something I will not go into. Be assured, we are being used as a grand experiment by a progressive agenda that thinks it knows best for all. I disagree.

Old Timer said...

I find it ironic that you would post the A+ Schools' support of the tentative teacher contract, Questioner. You see, any teacher worth his stripes knows that A+ has never been a group which is out to support PPS teachers. On the contrary, they have continually paid lip service to the lack of transparency that now mars board dealings and have consistently lauded Superintendent Roosevelt, a man who knows much more about how to build a corporate model than he does how to educate children. You see, in my way of thinking, B or B- grades tend to empower mindsets and adopted operating procedures much more than a D or D- would.
A+'s idea seem to be to not rock the boat. Perhaps you will see fit to fire these question off to Carey Harris:

-should the idea of effective teaching be commensurate with having fidelity to canned curriculum?

-can a teacher not only be effective but also be empowered in using a curriculum that does not correspond to the needs of the student, especially where standardized tests are concerned?

-can accomplished teachers suddenly forget how to teach? After teaching 20+ years and winning accolades, how is it possible that numerous teachers are now finding themselves "focused"?

-can 10 -15 minute visits via "learning walks" determine just how effective a teacher is or isn't?

-can administrators who were washouts in the classroom or better yet, never in the classroom to begin with, truly measure effectiveness?

-is there a reason a number of teachers have been asked to resign after continually being observed? Is intimidation of teachers by administrators an acceptable method in determining teacher effectiveness?

Of course, it would be nice to have a proactive union that could solve many problems, but why live in the past?

I get the impression that Carey and her group want to sit in a circle and sing "We Are the World". Problem is, the proposal is greatly flawed. It's all about style with little bona fide substance.
If you want to empower effective teachers, provide them with the greatest amount on input where curriculum is concerned. Credit them with being THE determining factor in moving little Johnny closer to his academic goals, not some administrator who is out of the building three days a week, learning how to keep control of teachers.

No, it's no surprise that A+ supports the teacher contract. Again, I cannot fathom how any teacher with a modicum of self respect can support it.

Questioner said...

Posting the A+ recommendation does not signal agreement. Usually A+ takes a balanced approach, so this email urging support of the proposed contract is worth a closer look. For example, the recommendation is said to be based on research, but the contract seems to go beyond the research.

Old Timer said...

Questioner, you are missing the point. Under Roosevelt, PPS has reached out and become one of the research establishment's best customers, spending millions on studies and data that even the most casual of PPS teacher already knows.

Listen, if anyone wants to do a true investigative report about the waste of tax dollars, PPS is a great place to start. Kaplan, Rand...the list is endless. Now we want to provide administrators with research data about what constitutes an effective teacher.

How many individuals are on PPS payroll and NOT in the classroom? How is it that they earn paychecks? How many administrators consult nationwide data which tends to paint the district as "progressive" when, if more research is conducted, data will prove that the progressive slant failed miserably.

Two fresh examples of course are accountable talk, which failed in NYC and Chicago schools, and merit pay, which has failed everywhere else.

The contract provides short shrift to teachers, Questioner. Please, walk a mile in a teacher's shoes before you attempt to pass judgment, and by that I mean, a teacher not in an elite school.
How can this proposal merit passage?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 1:02, I have heard that the PRC idea--also known as 9th and 10th grade looping--is being force fed to teachers and is replete with lies about pay, etc., for the initial wave of teachers who "volunteered" for it.
Can you shed some light on this issue?

Anonymous said...

John Tarka is supposed to be the head of our Union. Why are you selling us down the road? You have not supported us like a union head has been trained to do.I understand that these are hard times and going into negotiations is not easy. That is when you are supposed to SUPPORT us not sell us out!!
What kind of contract is this? We are already teaching an extra period for Intervention and not getting paid for that. RISE has entered the scene and we did not even have a say in this matter. This is only to get rid of teachers. I once was so excited to be a part of this Union but it definitely appears that we have a Union in name only. John Tarka....Shape UP or Ship Out!!!!!!!!!

happy said...

Anonymous 1:02, thanks for the post. I am old and have not worked for many years and follow this as a hobby. I could not imagine how more were not up in arms about the complete chaos around the seniority issues.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Mr. Gates' representatives should ahve met with the parents having insights to help him develope a plan to improve. I think I might have said, "Hey, Bill if you want to see teachers improve let's help the kids improve by getting Dad a descent job and help him be supportive of his kids and his school."

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 8:17, regarding PRC...It is a new initiative that is suppose to be to help the 9th graders get "promise ready". It has several components. One of the components is the 9th/10th grade looping. For those not familiar with the term, it simply means that the kids will have the same teachers for 9th and 10 grade. The point of it is supposedly to develop a better relationship with the kids therefore motivating them to want to perform better.

This seems to be a very large area of disagreement with the new contract proposal. It is suppose to be a voluntary position. However, in most, if not all, schools, it has been forced upon teachers. For example, Biology is the current 9th grade Science course. So, Biology teachers have to loop. Civics is the 9th grade Social Studies course, so teachers who want to teach Civic - and are highly effective at teaching Civics have to either loop or teach a different subject. In Social Studies it is easier to teacher a different subject since they are not content specific. However, in Science the certification is content specific. Which creates a whole different problem. The powers that be have been suggesting that the Bio teachers become certified in another Science so that they can loop. The problem is that they may not want to teach something like Chem. And, just because they can pass a test and become certified does not make them a Chem teacher.

Now for the bomb...the teachers who are piloting this PRC program get a few extra bucks. They have to work extra days and longer days. They get compensated for that extra time. That is fair. But, the people who take that position after they lay the groundwork will get pain MANY thousands of dollars more for doing the same program after the involuntary "volunteers" have worked out all of the problems. It is really quite unbelievable and very inequitable.

Hope that answers your question.

mom of grad said...

I have a student about to graduate and she seems to be a good analyst of teacher quality. Looping and the sciences would trouble her a lot. I probably will never get to needlepoint the message on a pillow for any of her science teachers and I may get the exact words wrong. She says, "Science teachers are usually GREAT teachers and it's because they first love THE science." She would say "the science" is the ONE a teacher teaches. The sciences should not be loop-able. Now is the time to fix that, before the launch of the PRC. Personally, from the little I have seen, people in the science department work together so closely that looping practices may already exist.

lisa said...

I want to know where the Shangri La of school districts is located (mentioned by Anonymous June 6 12:22) so that I can send my kids there immediately.

Another question: where do PPS teachers send their children to school?

Questioner said...

Those who live outside the district may send their kids to the closest school so they can be w/ neighborhood friends. As for PPS teachers living in the district- no big surprises, most likely- Dilworth, CAPA, Allderdice most likely. A lot used to go to Schenley and may now choose Obama.
Schools that are not chosen by board members and their families, community and government leaders, district administrators and most likely teachers are the less diverse schools (even if those schools were planned as "flagships," like Milliones).

Anonymous said...

Many PPS teachers I have known through the years have sent their children to private schools. I have always been disturbed by that fact.

Annette Werner said...

Anon 9:47 wrote:

"Maybe Mr. Gates' representatives should ahve met with the parents having insights to help him develope a plan to improve. I think I might have said, "Hey, Bill if you want to see teachers improve let's help the kids improve by getting Dad a descent job and help him be supportive of his kids and his school."

- We didn't get to meet w/ Mr. Gates, but did send a suggestion to the Foundation in October 2009- here it is below- no response.

Sent to Gates Foundation in Oct 09:

We thank the Gates Foundation for its willingness to invest in education in Pittsburgh.

Before a final decision is made on the form of the investment, we would like to make a suggestion: use a small portion of this investment to make a school in a poor neighborhood into a community center. The October 17, 2009 New York Times includes a letter describing an approach many of us here in Pittsburgh have favored for some time:

"How about turning schools in poor neighborhoods into year-round community centers, with health and dental services, nutritious meals, up-to-date libraries and computer labs, after-hours tutoring and recreation for children, and job training, counseling, recreation and educational classes for adults?"

Directing just a fraction of the investment would fund an exciting pilot project for the community center approach. We know that this is a long shot, but so was Microsoft itself.

lisa said...

Head Start programs and most public libraries provide many of the above services already.

Questioner said...

The success of Head Start at providing services for 3-5 year olds needs to be picked up elsewhere for older children.

Our libraries have all they can do to stay open- they do not seem to be providing meals, dental services, or extensive recreation. What services are available work best for the person who seeks them out, while what is often needed is individualized outreach.

lisa said...

Individualized outreach sounds like forcing people to do something. Offering opportunities is wonderful, but people can still choose not to take advantage of them.

We in the school district can not force/demand how people choose to raise their kids. Social services, CYF, etc exists to protect kids ...and they only step in for extreme cases. Mental health issues are the same. People only get attention when there is harm done to other people. Prevention is not much of an issue.

Questioner said...

There's a lot of space between just having services available and FORCING people to attend!

For ex, w/ the new science school- at one end would have been just making the school available, putting an announcement in the newspaper, and perhaps sending out a mailing. At the other end would have been requiring some students to attend. The middle ground was that Sam Franklin was in neighborhoods, handing out flyers, knocking on doors, engaging people in conversations, answering questions and encouraging applications.

As for CYF- we hear that there are huge caseloads- they only get to the most urgent issues.

Old Timer said...

I'm going to stray from the comments of lisa and Questioner to relate something I took note of today at my school: fear. It's the great motivator played by both PPS administration and the PFT. As stated previously, I cannot fathom any hard-working teacher of sound mind supporting a contract that does not provide even a cost of living increase. I try to walk a mile in the shoes of anyone who sees merit pay as a realistic alternative. And after going over to the top thread about the PPS student accused in a shooting, I read the last posting from a teacher who--like me--has seen his or her fair share of students killed, injured or incarcerated. The comments that come within that post are spot on: that even before the Roosevelt administration, a great deal of district finance was going to people NOT in the classroom. Now that we have a corporate approach with more administrators than teachers, a huge amount of the district's finances are going to pay individuals who do not even work with kids.


In light of this revelation, I have to wonder about fear. Why isn't PPS administration living in fear? Why don't taxpayers call them on careless spending? Why are school board members doing the bidding of their constituents and clamping down on outrageous administrative expenditures?

A union can only be strong if it is unified. This contract is beyond horrible. Mr.Tarka should be made to get back to the negotiations table to hammer out an agreement which rewards individuals actually working with kids. He should seek to safeguard the best interests of his members. He should opt to strike if an impasse in negotiations should take place and truthfully, he should remember that his union number 3000 and that the villains here are PPS, not membership.

Fear? Of what? Of who?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I'm sick of providing the handouts for everyone. How about we just expect people to do what they're supposed to do? It is not the teacher's fault if a parent doesn't care, can't raise their child, does drugs, etc. Maybe that's too conservative, but as a person who came from nothing, I feel that it was my choice to rise up. Fortunately I had people there along the way (especially teachers) I could trust. Those teachers still exist today.

Anonymous said...

I am not suprised at all why teachers in the city don't send their kids to PPS. I have never heard a parent say that they don't want their kids to go to PPS because of the teachers. I have however heard them say it's because they don't want their kids around the other kids who are constantly disrupting the quality education that could be provided. Again, it is a home issue that cannot be solved by teachers. I feel bad for the parents who actually care and opt to send their kids to PPS. If most of them knew what went on at the board level and how teachers are treated and what innane things come down the line...I shudder to think of the reaction. But no, let's just keep placing the blame on the teachers.

Anonymous said...

Since the subject is the new teacher contract, I will bring this discussion full circle. We are talking about the many things that are out of a teacher's control yet deeply impact a child's education.

So, when we are developing programs, such as the new "opportunities" in the proposed contract, why do so many of those positions require more people to work with the teachers. Why not create programs within the schools that address more of the social issues that the students are struggling with?

Rather than suspending a kid so they can sit at home and watch tv, sleep, etc, have a room within a building that has professional adults there to deal with the issues at hand.

Use that money for mental health therapists, psychologists who provide therapy, counseling services, etc.

Not this union, not this central administration...they just put it all back on the teacher. Create a position of "master teacher" to mentor and evaluate the new teachers. Create a position of team leaders who will now be another person to evaluate the teachers. Create a "turn around team" who will go in and work with who? Guess. Come on, you can do it. Yep. The teachers.

EVERY teacher I know either comes early or stays late. EVERY teacher I know uses their own money to buy thing for their students - from food to supplies. EVERY teacher I know is in it for more than the money.

This contract needs to give the teachers more support. It needs to give the kids more support. It does not need to create programs that are not fully developed yet. It does not need to offer money that some may or may or may not get. It does not need continue this new mind-set of "you are who we pay so you are who we can blame".

Anonymous said...

Lisa - I teach in the city and many of us are not even allowed to bring our own kids into the buildings because of safety issues. Allowed by who? Allowed by administration.

I broke up a fight a few years ago where I literally laid on top of a girl until security could break through the hundreds of kids to get in and help me. When security got to us, I got off of her and she threw the two fists full of hair she ripped from the other girl's scalp on the floor as they took her away (and not weave either-hair ripped out of her head).

Same year, I tried to break up a fight that started out as a few boys. I got knocked down on purpose by a kid who was coming to help his friend. It was not accidental - I watched the video. He knocked me down and into the lockers. That fight ended up being 9 boys and the bloodiest fight I have ever seen. Three teachers ended up having to miss an entire day of work to go to court for that. What happened to the boys? Nothing. Slap on the wrist and most of them were back.

I was told when I was pregnant by a student that he was going to kick me in my belly and kill my baby.

My colleagues and I have been verbally abused and called about just about every name that exists and some that they made up.

I worked in a building where a kid wiped his feces all over the walls. It was a mainstream building and he was not "identified" as having any issues or special needs.

That is why my kids do not go to PPS.

Ask Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Tarka why they don't address school safety. That would go a long way to improving test scores and the kids' ability to learn!

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add - these fights all took place in the hallways and were not the students in my classroom. I needed that P.S. here because I am sure someone out there will reply by blaming me- the teacher - and my classroom management. I didn't know the girls. I had a good relationship with 2 of the boys in the hall which is why I thought they might listen to me when I tried to intervene.

And these are only a few examples from one person. The amount stories that could be told about what happens on a daily basis would be staggering.

Questioner said...

The need for safety is one issue that even the current union leadership supports. So is there any chance of getting the union to require, in return for the changes the administration wants, a serious focus on safety? A good start- more security guards. Just because a school is "underenrolled" doesn't mean it can necessarily get along with just one security guard. In fact, an underenrolled school may actually need more security guards than some fully enrolled schools do.

Anonymous said...

At the last EFA the superintendent alluded to expanding the duties of our school srcurity staff. I think it is covered in the final segment Mark Ruaterkus filmed and has on his blog. I will look for it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Discipline and order. Safe and welcoming. Can anyone in the trenches explain the numnbers below to the uninformed?

Just focused on number of students suspended from 4-10 days and got the figures from board minutes.

April 2010 80
April 2009 105
April 2008 106
April 2007 129
April 2006 161

Questioner said...

There are many possible interpretations. Discipline may be more lax, with some behavior that used to result in a suspension no longer doing so- OR schools may be working with kids to solve behavior problems before they lead to suspensions. And, falling enrollment may have a role.

Anonymous said...

I am not clear on what those numbers mean Anon @ 6:56.

Does that mean that this is the total number of kids suspended in the district for that amount of days for that particular month?

So, this April,80 kids were suspended between 4 & 10 days?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, your interpretation is correct.

Anonymous said...

Students with behavior problems now acting up at Clayton and not getting suspended as opposed to acting up in the schools and getting suspended.

Students who get arrested and therefore are not suspended because they are locked up so there is no need to suspend them.

Old Timer said...

To those who are not in the know, those numbers would indicate an all-is-well, everything is beautiful view of what is going on in Pittsburgh Public Schools. But let's tip our hats yet again to the Roosevelt propaganda machine. He and his cohorts know that the numbers are reviewed and pored over, and as such a number of things happen to keep suspension numbers down:

a) creative record keeping. Tell the kids to go home and cool off. Call it an early dismissal, call it anything you want. Just don't call it disciplinary action.

b) put the kids in holding tanks called In School Suspension rooms. More often than not, the administrators in charge don't have a plan for this room, so it almost rewards the kids for disrupting classes. Hey, at least it's not technically a suspension

c) don't do anything at all. Just send them back to class and write "counseled" or "warned" or "contacted home" on the return slip. We see this more and more.

Administrators have been told to keep kids in school at all costs. Heck, many long time VPs will even tell you as much. Special Ed kids have even greater rights. They can only be suspended 15 days during a given school year unless the parent agrees to have them sent home. I've been in schools where VPs simply throw their hands up over these types of kids.

In any case, PPS is all about PR. Tighten everything down and only allow nice news bits to filter through. I can just see Roosevelt and his administration cringe when the the truth oozes out---the fights, the disruptions, the true scenarios of psychological impairment that we as teachers see in our bathrooms as noted above.

As long as we get all of these kids onto the pathway to the promise, all is well. Never mind the fact that their inflated grades don't jibe with their SAT or PSSA scores. That we can blame on the teachers.

Questioner, before you attempt to find some middle ground in all of this, please note: there is none. You and the public are continually being treated to a sham before your very eyes, and it begins in the superintendent's office and filters down to a complicit school board that forgot its duty to taxpayers a long time ago.

Old Timer said...

And to dovetail to my last post, again I have to wonder how any teacher in his or her right mind votes for the latest contract proposal. You are being asked to do much more with much less. You are being told that classroom discipline will be something you alone will take care of. You are being told to not stray from a curriculum which simply does not meet the needs of the kids. You are being told to teach without imparting personality--just stick to the script. You are being told that you will be judged by individuals who need to be coached as to what effective teaching is because simply put....they just don't know. And where recompense is concerned, you are being provided a few peanuts and told to like it. You will be asked to deal with a wider range of students than ever before, bringing issues to your classroom like never before, and you will receive no help in helping them to achieve.
As a carrot, we will have merit pay dangled in front of us, ironic in that it will be about as attainable as winning the lottery.
Administrators will reap the rewards and get the credit. You will remain status quo and get the blame.

And some genius wants to call that "jealousy"???

Anonymous said...

Those who support performance pay for teachers - like what it in this proposed contract - need to read this article.

Like SO many people, keep saying, this type of contract in schools does not create teamwork and collaboration. It creates panic and seperation. This one of MANY reasons why performance pay does NOT work in education.

These are scary and sad times in education. Gone are the days where the people making decisions are actually concerned about the kids. Central Adminstration cares about money and test scores. Look at it this way...the employees who care the most about the kids are the teachers and they are the ones getting blamed for everything that has gone wrong in education.

Anonymous said...

Scary and sad times in business and in health care as well. What is going on in education (PK-12 and also universities) is only a small taste of the future. People used to take care of each we only take care of the paperwork or the computer file or the press release. Everyone look out for yourself, because its not cost effective to take the time to care.