Thursday, April 12, 2012

Teachers displaced

On another post Anonymous wrote:

400 PPS teachers displaced; may lead to furloughs Tribune Review Pittsburgh Public Schools officials announced today that they will be displacing 450 teachers from their current buildings based on their seniority within ..."


Questioner said...

PG article, similar:

Questioner said...

Are other districts across the state laying off or furloughing teachers to the same extent? What about Harrisburg and Philadelphia?

Moe said...

One sentence in the article states: "In addition to a teacher's specific certification, the building displacements are based on building seniority..."

Sadly, that's not always true.

Many fine and experienced teachers recently applied for career ladders in their buildings, but were not chosen.

Those teachers who were not chosen were given ABSOLUTELY NO REASON for not being chosen. Those teachers will be displaced from their buildings regardless of their seniority.

This is disgusting. It is one thing for a senior teacher to be displaced due to declining student enrollment.

It is quite another thing for a senior teacher to be displaced because he/she wasn't picked in some sort of mysterious popularity contest.

It gets worse. PFT President Nina Esposito-Visgitis said: "We consider seniority to be the only fair way." She also mentioned how important the "school family" concept is.

Yet she allows senior teachers to be displaced via a mysterious popularity contest.

Questioner said...

The special provisions do seem to be have the effect of allowing PPS to do an end run around seniority rules. Was there ever any discussion within the union about the impact on the seniority rules that the union and its members seem to value?

Moe said...

Questioner, you asked if there was any discussion within the union about the seniority rules.

It was last PFT contact that allowed all these changes. I found the seniority language in that contract to be so vague as to be meaningless. That's why I voted against that contract.

But that contract did pass. Most teachers (wrongly) assumed that even with the vague language, seniority would still be respected.

Seniority evidently still comes into play when reductions are made due to declining enrollment.

But not for "career ladders." Most teachers assumed that when a career ladder position came up, the most senior quialified person IN THE BUILDING who bid for it would get the position.

No one dreamed that some secret panel somewhere could simply pick ANY candidate, even if that candidate is not currently teaching in that building. Such a candidate would then displace a senior teacher in that building.

Let me take a moment to defend teacher seniority. Not only does it defend a teacher against racial, age, and salary bias, it helps to build a sense of community and stability within the school.

Now much of that is gone, replaced by secretive panel decisions. For what it is worth, I am told that the building principals have very little influence in the final decisions of these panels.

Ashamed to Work Here said...

Q: Districts across the state are challenged, but not proportionately to this level.

Please do not be fooled.

Go back to pages 53 and 54 of the Empowering Effective Teachers plan.

The district's required local match was to come from school closings, teacher reductions and other operating efficiencies.

It seems like just yesterday that Mark Roosevelt and John Tarka, joined by Randi from the AFT National Office, were toasting receipt of the grant with wine at the Carnegie Hall. Let's not for a second forget that they were toasting to teacher furloughs.

Anonymous said...

This is posted on the PPS website! Are you kidding me? Wow...

Evidence Shows Seniority is not tied to Effective Teaching
We know that having an effective teacher in every classroom every year makes a significant difference. There is overwhelming evidence to show that effectiveness is more important than other criteria that has been valued in the past. While we know a number of our most senior teachers are truly some of our most effective, we are distressed at the loss of any effective teachers due to a seniority-based process that doesn't put better outcomes for students first.

We remain committed to having our most effective teachers in our classrooms, and are confident that as part of our Empowering Effective Teachers work we are well along in the process of developing measures that will be fair and reliable around teacher effectiveness.

Over the past several years, District and Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) leadership and teachers have worked collaboratively to develop and implement a new evaluation system that is fair and consistent for teachers. In a recent article in the Post-Gazette the PFT validated PPS's rigorous new evaluation system. We know more now than we ever have about how effective teaching helps students achieve and how to support teachers in their classroom. .

But our current system isn't keeping up with the times. Currently we are obligated by state law and our collective bargaining agreement with the PFT to do furloughs based on only one criterion – seniority. In the past, seniority was an important factor in order to protect teachers from discrimination. Additionally, because there were not adequate evaluations systems, seniority became the sole factor used for furloughs. It is unfortunate that at this time we are obligated by state law and our collective bargaining agreement to manage our displacements and furloughs based on seniority and not on performance.

Today, we are in a different place. We look forward to getting the union's support to using the evaluation information along with seniority criteria – currently the sole criteria -- to establish a fairer, more reliable teacher furlough process.

If you feel strongly about this topic, consider writing a letter to the editor or speaking at an upcoming PPS Public Hearing - April 23, May 21 or June 25.

Anonymous said...

Does the Federation have a duty to represent?

I thought this was a pretty fundamental labor law concept, with rich case history behind it.

Anonymous said...

Taking it to the court of public opinion! Perhaps the highly paid lobbyist sent to Harrisburg to influence changes to the school code was such a failure that this is the next step, the next strategy? Was this the end game all along? Do I want my kids to be taught by a highly qualified teacher? You bet, but I also want them to understand the importance of loyalty and honor. I do not think the evaluation system is fair to all. Too many relationships exist to make the evaluations 100% fair. To give the impression or allow for specualtion that kids are not as successful as they could be because of seniority is unethical. Sadly, I can name at least a half dozen of my fellow parents who will blame teachers for all that their kid did not accomplish and they will be in line to testify at the public hearing about "bad teachers".

Anonymous said...

How much has been spent on the Fadzen matter and what does that equate to in terms of teacher salary and benefit?

Anonymous said...

Can somebody help a Jane Q. Public out and explain what the district wants to happen? I was unable to find the message posted above on the pps site, but you don't think that the expectation is that the union capitualate on the issue of seniority if somehow the state would agree to SET ASIDE A LAW just for PPS? It is very sad that the district would initiate this kind of campaign and create strife among colleagues who are trying to get in one more grading period for the STUDENTS! Introducing other factors without careful consideration will cause a big mess to be dealt with for a very long time. For example, what if PRC teachers were exempt from layoff because they have been identified as effective only to be deemed ineffective in another cycle of PRC? What if a highly effective teacher today had two kids in the next 4 years and becomes less effective?

Anonymous said...

Clearly Lane and Co. expect the union to capitulate on this issue of seniority. And why not? The union has given in at every turn so far! Bellefield "owns" the union. Bellefield will find a way to circumvent the contract and the union will roll over and play dead again. Bet on it. They want the "cheapest" teachers to save money. This isn't really about the "best, most qualified" teachers. Does anyone really believe Lane and Co. care about our students getting the best education? It's a sad day for PPS.

Anonymous said...

It is more simple to explain than you might expect.

Administration has determined that the priority in not student achievement but keeping themselves in the highly paid positions that they have created with approval of the Board. In order to do that they have to explain away the poor achievement in PPS by state standards. (As it stands, PPS is 466th out of 500.)

So, in order to keep their positions, the blame for poor achievement must the fault of teachers-----mind you, that means it is not because of poor curriculum, poor leadership, poor decisions, poor organization, loss of critical courses, large class sizes, etc. all of which is administered by Central Office personnel. No, these are not the cause of poor achievement; instead, it must be teachers (who by the way are also hired and trained by C.O).

By any means necessary, Central Office Administration must preserve their own positions.

Anonymous said...

The PPS is trying to get rid of as many teachers with 11 years or more experience as they can. They believe that cheapest teachers are the most effective teachers. This is about cost effectiveness not the ability to effectively teach. The only people making it past first rounds of PRC interviewing are new teachers. Why? What else could it realy be. It is age discrimination based on how much you make.

Teachers in this district are experiencing a Reign of Terror brought on by the Broad/Gates grant influence. Teachers do not get support from administration on displine. The hallways at some schools have kids doing what ever they want, not attending class. This the worest this district has been in my 15+ years here. They are letting the kids do what ever and blame the teachers.

Get Rid of all the assistant superintendent's and Dr. Lane and start over.

I wanted to teach here for 35 years, I hope to make it to 25 in this climate.

If all these new methods are so great, why are the suburban school districts around here not utilizing them. There are still using the teching methods used here before this bogus educational reform.

Fed Up

In the Trenches said...

Anonymous 11:41

You mentioned poor curriculum, poor leadership, poor decisions, etc.

Let me add one more thing to your list: poor employee morale.

I have never seen employee morale this low.

Today, most PPS teachers fall into one of three catagories. Those afraid for their jobs, those actively looking for other work, and those counting the days until they retire.

Good leaders know how important morale is. It is a key factor in an army unit, in a company, in any organization!

The current central leadership seems to think that employee moral is unimportant. They have replaced that concept with intimidation tactics.

People can say what they want about John Thompson, but he understood the importance of good morale. When he was in a building, teachers were happy to see him. We felt that he really cared about us. I can't say that about the current leadership.

Anonymous said...

If you listen carefully, you will hear this administration extol the virtues of this administration and what it has done to remedy all things preceding them as though they had been through failure after failure that they have now remedied. Unfortunately, these are all new people who were not a part of the previous success of this district. They continually speak as though PPS never did anything right and it has been their mission to remedy those problems. Yet, if they did some research, minimal research, they would find that that the district was far more successful previous to their entry into 341 S. Bellefield. Check all of the data and comparatively our schools were more advanced than the majority across the state. Now, PPS is ranked in the bottom 15% in PA. Why are they not publicly challenged? Is it politically correct to spin the data so that more people do not flee the city?

Wallace, Brennan, Faison, King, and Thompson did not have the problems and failures to the outrageous degree that we have them now. Just a fact.

Anonymous said...

Is this common knowledge?

This paragraph stood out to me.

"the Gates$3.5M to the Broad Foundation’s Center for the Management of School Systems in June of this year. (Doesn’t Broad have enough money?) In the Gates’ statement they say "to build capacity in Hillsborough, Memphis, Pittsburgh, and the College Ready Promise, we are partnering with The Broad Residency to place each IPS organization to directly support teacher effectiveness initiatives, while leveraging our accelerator grant to Tulsa and secure a multi-year investment from local Tulsa foundations"

Victoria said...

Is the Urban District Leadership networks new? I have never heard of them before, however Pittsburgh is listed as a member. The program is called Aspen Urban Superintendents & it is funded by Gates. (stated on website provided) I didn't know both Broad & Gates were into the superintendent game.

Notice all the districts are Broad and or Gates affiliated.

"The initiative directly benefits the large urban districts that participate in the work; these districts are critical players in the success of any major national effort.

The districts in the networks include: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Denver, District of Columbia, Hillsborough County FL, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Prince George’s County, Rochester, and Seattle."

Anonymous said...

Yes, "Broad/Gates" or "Gates/Broad" -- they're in these things together. Broad has the superintendent thing, Gates does "teacher effectiveness" and teacher training (bypassing schools of education, sort of the Broad model for teachers).

A Word from Bellefield said...

They fund Aspen in order to have a seemingly independent organization release "analysis" of the programs they fund.

It's really quite incestuous, but if you don't follow the money trail it's easy to lose sight of the relationships.

My former boss used to chuckle that the Council of Great City Schools and Aspen used to hold roundtables to thank each other for their leadership.

Anonymous said...

And sadly after ruining public education for urban schools, by scripting teachers NOW he decides that maybe the Microsoft model doesnt work for education. Sure, degrees and experience didnt mean alot during the .com bubble of tech- but gee, somehow the non- urban segments of America have found a way to use these degreed and experienced educators to bring their students to greatness while our cities waste time struggling with how to evaluate teachers- instead of raising students upward-
because Gates and Broad need the perpetual underclass.

Anonymous said...

wow it seems other districts are not embracing the empowering teachers campaign or peer evaluations. definately looks like a cookie cutter program. I thought this was a Pittsburgh thing but it appears to be a one size fits all program headed by an investor? Causing lots of union strife across the board

Anonymous said...

New post topic

What about the ineffective Principals? Is anyone willing to address this? My principal is ineffective and hides in his office all day.

Anonymous said...

New post.. Read this article.

Show me a good principal and I'll show you a good school.

Not just us said...

Not to pick on you anon 4:28, but I've been talking about this for years: What we're seeing in Pittsburgh right now is NOT UNIQUE to Pittsburgh or invented by the people here.

The main changes are part of a list of "prescriptions" that are part of the "Broad/Gates" agenda and go neatly hand in hand with TFA and charter school chains.

Things we've had here that are part of this:

- the proposed Teacher Academy
- stirring up animosity against seniority in favor of "energetic, young teachers"
- moving tenure further and further down the road in hopes of getting rid of it
- Scripted instruction
- "Data driven" -- even if the data is one multiple choice question from an exam that may or may not really test if the student has "comprehension skills."
- "High expectations" as a magical incantation instead of a plan of action that addresses the needs of the actual students in our schools.
- Closing schools, combining schools, having "themed" schools that are not comprehensive schools
- Top heavy administrations filled with non-educators dictating policy

NONE of this is something dreamed up here in Pittsburgh, we're just part of the "cohort."

Why the United States is Destroying her Education System

Real News on Fake Education Reform

Valerie Strauss' Washington Post blog is excellent:
Valerie Strauss

Reading Susan Ohanion, Diane Ravitch, and many others online will give you an idea about the spread of these ideas -- if you look around there are also parent groups out there in most Broad/Gates cities, trying to get their voices heard.

Anonymous said...

Broad/Gates 101
How to tell if your School District is infected by the Broad Virus.
Worth reposting.

Anonymous said...

From the above article:

How to tell if your School District is Infected by the Broad Virus

Schools in your district are suddenly closed.

Even top-performing schools, alternative and schools for the gifted, are inexplicably and suddenly targeted for closure or mergers.

Repetition of the phrases “the achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements.

Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.)

The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms.

Power is centralized.

Decision-making is top down.

Local autonomy of schools is taken away.

Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will.

Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent.

Ballooning of the central office at the same time superintendent makes painful cuts to schools and classrooms.

Sudden increase in number of paid outside consultants.

Increase in the number of public schools turned into privately-run charters.

Weak math text adopted (most likely Everyday Math). Possibly weak language arts too, or Writer’s Workshop. District pushes to standard the curriculum.

Superintendent attempts to sidestep labor laws and union contracts.

Teachers are no longer referred to as people, educators, colleagues, staff, or even “human resources,” but as “human capital.”

Anonymous said...

The writing was on the wall when the top well respected central admin retired when Roosevelt arrived. all the content supervisors made a mass exodus at once. Sad morale is low. It is difficult to "engage " students with curriculum that has outdated content,boring to them and error ridden. and the union ignores the teachers concerns.....

Anonymous said...

The Death and Life of the Great American School System is a must read if you post here. It explains a lot of what is going on with public schools.