Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Candlelight vigil/ yinzer

On another post Anonymous wrote:

Couldn't find the start a new post link. Tomorrow June 13th there will be a candlelight vigil outside the Bellefield building sponsored by Yinzernation in support of furloughed teachers. The time is from 6-7 pm and the plan is to light 285 candles to show support. Of course the union officials are all busy at a dinner and won't be able to attend.. The support for teachers is absymal. Thank you to all of the yinzers parents and colleagues who are there for us everyday. Hope to see you in Oakland.


Questioner said...

Is the vigil intended to show support for setting aside the seniority system? Maybe union officials aren't attending because they perceive the vigil as supporting the district goal of eliminating or at least reducing the importance of seniority.

Mark Rauterkus said...

How many of the 285 (or whatever that number is) are teachers as opposed to other roles?

IMA parent said...

Questiner, I am a bit confused too and now even more so since I checked the A+ website and saw a message on the homepage to attend the candlelight vigil. Sorry, if this is an event sponsored by A+ I can't attend afterall. I did not like some of the messages generated by A+ promoting that the seniority system be set aside or become of less importance THIS YEAR in deciding furloughs. The rating system is untested and too cumbersome for admin to do an effective job in applying it uniformly and meet all deadlines.

If this event tonight is about the teachers who are being taken away from our kids I want to be there, if this is another A+ event to spew its rhetoric, count me out. I would not want to be counted as a supporter of A+ efforts, which pains me as someone who appreciates some of the work they do in other endeavors.

Anonymous said...

Look if the senior teachers were paid less we wouldnt be having this discussion. Its about money, not about the kids.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Yinzercation doesn't realize that Corbett and the state are not the ONLY problem for PPS.

I think most of these parents have very good intentions, but they are truly unaware of the issues that have been worsening here over the last 5-7 years.

The administration is delighted to welcome them and have this vigil (and will likely send out Broadies and interns and the like to help hold candles).

They are delighted because their fiscal mismanagement, excessive spending on this program, that program, this consultant, that consultant, closing this school, opening that school (and opening this school and then closing that one,too) can all be now lumped into a problem called "the state is cutting our funds."

If Mark Roosevelt had known that this short time later he could just blame all his errors on the Republican governor, he'd likely still be here.

If this vigil were about (reducing) CLASS SIZES and (lack of) quality in programming and the resegregation of the district, I'd be there.

But it's not and Yinzercation doesn't realize how it's being used.

Look up seniority and you'll see cities all across the country suddenly feeling the need to break a contract. This isn't an accident and it's not just the economy. It's the "reform" movement seizing an opportunity to gut the schools in yet another way.

These are generally parents of elementary students -- they don't remember Kaplan and Foresights and ALAs and the promises about how great UPrep would be (although they should be smart enough to have watched the horror show at Westinghouse this year).

Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't be hollering at Harrisburg -- but that we can't lose sight of the horrible errors that have been made with our money and, most importantly, our kids during the "Broad regime."

But ask me how I really feel. ;-D

Anonymous said...

Mark --

Yes, that 285 is all teachers. Paras and other staff are being counted separately.

Anonymous said...

*Look if the senior teachers were paid less we wouldnt be having this discussion. Its about money, not about the kids.*

Hey, let's start with the huge numbers of administrators who make MORE than senior teachers (let alone teachers with less than 10 years) and have NO real student contact, ever.

Start your complaining there and I'll take you much more seriously.

Questioner said...

Is it really necessary to pay so much to attract administrators?

Anonymous said...

Why did one but not the other (and earlier) of my comments show up?

Questioner said...

? Please resend.

Anonymous said...

It's there now! Somehow it didn't show up for me until after later posts. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I suspect A+ grabbing the yinzercation event to advance the A+ causes is possible. From what I thought I knew about yinzercation, the event was to show support for the furloughed not to add more to the A+ effort.

Did A+ highjack the event?

Anonymous said...

Anowchr 10A+ is dead wrong on its most recent ventures into education. Their positions have become more and more problematic.

It is no longer about advocacy for the education of all of our children but rather A+ has become an advocacy for PPS Central Administration.

It is truly unfortunate that the current leaders at PPS and A+ are NOT educators with fruitful time in schools with students.

It is not wise to allow such "leaders" to control the future of Pittsburgh's children.

We need advocates who understand the mission, have the necessary knowledge and commitment for how to influence equity and excellence for ALL of our children.

The results in PPS that have come at the hands of the Board, the PPS Administration, Broad/Gates, and A+ Schools is not only extremely disappointing, but more than boarders on criminal.

Anonymous said...

Is this propaganda influencing our children to be narrow-minded?

Teacher furloughs 'mourned' at vigil

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
By Tony LaRussa On the last day of classes for Pittsburgh Public Schools, teachers, parents and students gathered in Oakland on Wednesday evening for a ...

After reading the article, it is apparent to me.2


Anonymous said...

Regarding the Trib article, did I miss what must have also been a related piece--the obituary for the death of dignity and a sense of shame that prevents most adults from drawing children into the front lines of ugly debates like this to use them as pawns? If the adults involved here have no other tools to solve their problems but gross sensationalism and pathetic emotional appeals, then they can't possibly have tools to manage multi layered situations. Obviously, because the adults created the situations they now face in the first place. Oversimplifying solutions by trying to play on the sympathies of people by making kids cry is beneath every one of us. Again, explain the alternative solution. There is none that I have heard as of yet. I am still waiting to hear the formula for effectiveness. No conversation on this because those in charge still haven't teased this out and are unlikely to do so for some time yet. So, if there is no other actual proposed formula for ensuring that all teachers become and remain average, which is what formulas and standards really are designed to do, to make sure everyone achieves a certain standard of average, then, no, there is no other al criteria then seniority. Instead of staging these insane public dramas that border on being like an episode from Basketball Wives, why not come up with something cogent that evidences the high quality of science and thinking that the public keeps hearing is being done but has yet to actually see? Stop using children as political pawns. Show that you are grown ups who know how to protect and nurture children instead of using them constantly for your own personal gain. This is not an election campaign here, or is it?

Anonymous said...

If all kids can achieve to high levels and they are not, what is the reason?

Anonymous said...

The issue is seniority AND other measures. It is absurd to only use seniority when other measures exist and ranting and raving about who is doing something else serves no purpose.

Anonymous said...

What is the reason? Indeed! I try to read, watch and listen to all things education and I still feel that the essence is not being explored. Why is money the issue alone when PPS spends freely. The budget is larger than the City of Pgh. More money is spent here than the suburbs and rural public schools. Why can't kids just go to school, pay attention and learn? Why is that so much to ask? How does more money make kids pay attention? Stop with the political hatchet job and get down to the 3 R's.

Anonymous said...

Scientists often try to understand the cause of a perceived problem by isolating and controlling what are believed to be contributing factors, the idea being that if these are controlled, then a process of elimination will reveal the true cause. This works better for highly predictable, linear processes that are highly repetitive and relatively uniform by their essential nature, like chemical combinations, for instance. In the case of PPS, you have a similar approach, with six years of highly controlled, scripted curriculum, highly controlled, scripted building leadership, highly controlled public relations. Theoretically, highly scripted and controlled managed curriculum and leadership should lead to improvements , but PPS shows no results. So, is this because the theory is wrong, r is it because the people implementing the theory at central are just incompetent and are still just learning it for the first time themselves and are novices? My Monet is on the latter. Their actions speak for themselves and demonstrate gross incompetence at the expense of children and the community. In what other area would you be willing to bet your life on a novice? Would you realistically get on a plane and fly with a pilot who has never been in a plane until today? Would you agree to have your child operated on by someone who until yesterday was a public policy student or a legislator? No you would not. Asking a question that infers a single cause and solution to a complex phenomena that is teaching and learning tells me that the questioner is a novice learner. Tell me, what is your definition of the common characteristics of effective teaching and learning and explain how you would cultivate, assess, and promote these characteristics in teachers. Explain how these correlate into specific measures of student avhievement. How do you, PPS, define students achieving to high levels anyway? What does that look like? How does that tie to alleged supporting causes like curriculum? PPS has none of this figured out and is blindly throwing busy action at the issue of achievement , again because it's leaders are novices themselves who have no credibility to decide the fate of others, let alone themselves.

Anonymous said...

Seniority is the only issue? This is very simplistic. Where s the other method or set of methods that would be your preferred option? Let's see it explained in full so we an see if it is better. Doesn't make much practical sense to abandon your current and only choice of consistent method for something that does not yet exist. Why even bring this up if you don't have a clear alternative? Dong something like this is a typical and desperate political move to distract the " great unwashed" aka the term referring to the vast and greatest portion of working class voters from really being privy to core understanding and to instead incite people to react and riot based on pure emotion against what they believe is being denied them. See the French Revolution. Creating this kind of chaos brings with it years of dysfunction and suffering for, again, the very people who are, and will continue to be, most badly affected here. The working class. Why play their game? Instead, parents and citizens should just calmly say, "Fine. We see your point. We are willing to learn more. Show us your alternative plans in detail . Until we see and understand your new plan in detail, we simply cannot agree to release our children into any further system chaos. So far, your track record, central, has been to create unceasing chaos and to destroy peace and safe relationships to and within our schools. We have had enough. No more until we see real plans, not some drawing, not some random talk about if we believe we can achieve. Real plans. What, when, where, why, and how. Real backup data and supporting research that includes systemic results beyond PPS walls. Real, practical accountability. And far less threatening behavior, always the sign of managers who really don't understand what to do about anything but to insist that their title alone makes them experts. Enough nonsense. Show us real plans."

Anonymous said...

In response to the "nobody has a plan" arguement on the seniority issue, A+ came up with three suggestions to add as factors in determining a way to keep effective teachers in front of students. You can see details on their webpage but in a nutshell: RISE, "improvement plan teachers" and vulnerable schools are the three categories to include in determinging furloughs. What trumps all these and more is ignoring the power of relationships in our small town. Who can claim to be completely objective 100% of the time and ignore the past friendships, working relationships, friend-of-a-friend, "my nephew's best buddy who ran errands for my grandma when he lived next door to her" connections? Can any evaluator claim to have put the same amount of time and effort into every observation and report or have they slipped into "I've known this teacher for a long time and know they are good" or "This teacher is young and full of energy and therefore excellent."

A+ seems to have far too much confidence in RISE and I have heard of a few teachers who kids will recall as the best who did not produce test scores that gave them a good rating. Who makes the final judgements on who stays and who goes and how long before the exceptions prove the rating system useless.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 8:17, your response is insightful and more accurate than not.

RISE has too many flaws to achieve the goal of "effective teacher in every classroom."

You have cited a few of the more obvious flaws, but there are many,many other conditions that tilt the scale. Many of these are serious flaws in curricula, pedagogy, structure, and theories around "control" of students. Most are counterproductive, but required by PPS Administration.

Anonymous said...

From 7:56:"Theoretically, highly scripted and controlled managed curriculum and leadership should lead to improvements . . ."

What! Why? The "research" provides very little, if any, support for a theory of "scripted and controlled managed curriculum."

PPS will never see improvement with such curricula in place.

And "leadership" must be the knowledge, insight, intuition, and general ability to make individual decisions that address the situation at hand. PELA training is another "one size fits all" formula for bright, young people who lack the experience, the creativity, and foundational philosophies needed to be real leaders. And, PPS needs a central office that knows how to run an urban district without external consultants, ad nauseum.

Anonymous said...

Just adding to these excellent posts. I believe that A+ intends for PPS to use VAM scores as well. Here are just a few issues with using those scores as they are currently:

-- only grade 3-8 and 11th grade teachers of reading and math (and then three grades of science and writing) even have scores for the PSSAs

-- younger children are given nationally normed tests -- but these were also never designed to rate teachers

-- Some subject teachers have only the district created "curriculum based assessments" to rate them.

-- special subject teachers (languages, arts, physical education) don't have anything at all comparable.

-- Looking at an actual VAM report shows how ridiculous using these scores would be for many grades and subjects. A teacher has their score (given as a percentile rank) and then there's a bar showing the range of scores that can't be shown to be different statistically. Some of those bars extend over 90% of the scale! That is, a teacher scoring 6% on a VAM scale can't be said to be statistically different than one at 93%. Clearly, that's insane! BUT, what is stopping the administration from just saying that one of those teachers should be fired?

-- there are teachers whose CBA scores show "good" value added and whose PSSA scores show "bad" value added (and others who show the opposite pattern) -- what does that mean for using the data? Do we use the standardized test's scores (PSSA) even though it wasn't meant for that. Or do we use the district created tests (which are also used to check up on teachers' "fidelity" to the curriculum) which aren't standardized or...anything, to decide fates?

Anonymous said...

Simple math it is a negative variable from one test score and a positive variable from another test score equals zilch or nada.

They just use other VAM data for rationale of bad PSSA scores?

No way PSSA scores count.

Teachers shouold be looking at Texas and Tennesse Schools and the outcome of teacher retention using the VAM model.

Another point, the past six posters are they having a conversation just regarding VAM?

Anticpated lay-offs of at least 500PPS employees with 285 teachers in the total.

Anonymous said...

June 14 8:17 AM

I also agree with several of your comments. The process of RISE is to be an evaluation of a teacher's complete practice not a select class or at a select time during the day like after lunch, when the students return from art or gym or the last period of the school day.

I've heard from several teachers in variuos schools that their principal selected to conduct observations of certain teachers at the same time during the day and typically with the same group of children. If RISE is supposed to consider a teacher's complete practice, then why have area Assistant Superintendents signed off on an unsatisfactory packet when the principal's evidence only includes the same class when multiple classes are available for a specific teacher or selecting a class that meets the same period everyday after lunch or the last period of the day? Heaven forbid if any principal evaluated a teacher who's class met the last period of the day everyday? Wouldn't this evidence be considered as biased without a true reflection of a teacher's entire practice? The next concern is why isn't the PFT questioning the validity of such evidence when it impacts the employment of a Union Member? Lastly, shouldn't this be brought up as an item of concern when district administrators, RISE Teams from schools and PFT Union Represenativers meet in collaboration as they continue to "build the plane while they're flying it?"

Yes, there are many items that can influence evaluations but never should one's performance rating be based on observing the same group of children or even a different group of children but always at the same time of the day. Research shows that student performance is best in the morning hours instead of just after lunchtime recess or the last period of the school day.

If an unsatisfactory rating was issued to even one teacher whose situation meets any of these concerns, then the PFT Leadership must challenge that rating and collaborate with district officials to ensure that no teacher's performance is ever measured under these unethical conditions.

Anonymous said...

You know, the whole premise of RISE rests on the assumption there s a certain predictability or sameness to teaching students. That sameness would be,is, the students. Holding a belief that all students can achieve to high levels so what is the problem is holding to the belief that all students and all people are the same and any intervention proven in another environment will work. The thing is that students are not all the same. They change daily depending on what is going on with them and what is going on in the word. Trying to address all students as if they are one mass of sameness is a useless approach. Yes, every student should have every opportunity, too, and supportive adult that it takes for the student to reach hs potential. This will look different for every student and it will mean different kinds of teaching to meet those needs. When we insist on sameness and rigid implementation of canned curriculum and pd training, we also insist that the spark in every kid can be reached the same way. Not so. We dehumanize kids and turn them into objects when we approach solutions this way. We take away the unique talents of individual teachers and principals when we insist on hyper controlling everything they do and don't do. School becomes something to put up with be ause you have no choice, not something that can light up a kid. We should really think about this more carefully before we continue making people miserable documenting everything they do in such a random and subjective way, and yes RISE is hugely subjective. Some people rating teachers have never taught themselves. How do they even know what good teaching looks like? Craziness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you posters on this thread!

It is good to see evidence of intelligence, knowledge, ability to express cogently and some sense of the problems that exist rampantly in PPS.

Someone needs to send this to the Superintendent and ask her to question her chiefs on the multiple issues that have been so clearly raised here. (Or is this beyond the ability to comprehend for people in central office?)

Anonymous said...

Linda Lane was going around and visting schools yesterday, quite a few, on the last day with kids.

What a Joke, the last day of the year with students just to say she visited these schools, what a fake!

Anonymous said...

I am cautious to offer thoughts sometimes but say what you will about Lane, as a parent I am convinced that she prefers the company of kids. Do I agree with how things are going? No, but sometimes the criticism is so over the top that it is apparent that it is all about the negative and no room for any positive. Is there no room for any kindness or appreciation?

Teachers, have a nice summer. Recover and think about the next crop of kids.

Anonymous said...

If I thought this was some temporary blip or just a small bad patch, I might be more positive.

But I am more and more convinced that I'm watching the destruction of our public schools in this city. And with that, the gradual decline and demise of the city. And that makes me speak up indeed.

I can say positive things though -- there are still excellent teachers out there, doing their very best to give a great education. There are many great parents out there, supporting their kids and trying to make this work, even if only because they can't afford to do anything else.

There are STILL some great principals out there, trying to do their very best for the kids without calling too much attention down on themselves.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:27 June 14th

How can she prefer the company of kids, she spent very little time in the classroom as a teacher. She got away from children as fast as she could for pete's sake. She has been a administrator for most of her career.

She hardly spends any time with kids as she is at the Ivory Tower.

She is a Joke, a poster child for Eli Broad/Bill Gates agendas, she could care less about our kids just her fat retirement. She was visting schools just so she can say she did. Wake up a smell coffee, or better yet the B.S.

This whole district is going to be like Westinghouse last fall.

Sad but true

Anonymous said...

How can A+ schools be evenly remoting considered unbiased towards PPS? Look at their board make-up starting at the top with Judy Johnston consultant to PPS who has made mucho bucks consulting with them since retiring from PPS. What a gravy train - would you bite the hand that feeds you?

Anonymous said...

Since Judy Johnston has been hired by PPS as a consultant for effective teaching practices, I wonder if PPS ever reviewed her data as a PPS administrator? The question that needs to be asked is during Judy Johnston's time as a PPS principal how many teachers did she rate as unsatisfactory? I would be willing to bet the answer is ZERO! Could the reason for this be that during her tenure as a PPS principal she was not skilled in determining effective teaching practices or she was satisfied keeping the status quo in rating all employees as satisfactory? It's amazing how knowledgeable Judy Johnston became in evaluating effective teaching AFTER she retired.

Just like the Central Administrators who are in charge with limited practical experience as a classroom teacher or principal, the consultant herself never actually completed, assited, logged evidence or monitored a teacher's plan for improving their practice. Isn't anyone questioning why those who never encouraged a poor performing teacher out of the profession are now on a mission to complete such a task? Let's take it one step further, during Lippert's and French's one year stand as principals at Allegheny and Mifflin did they ever actually place a teacher on an Employee Improvement Plan or were they also comfortable in signing the rating form for every teacher as satisfactory?

It's important to ask these questions in the hope that Board Members just may be curious enough to retrieve the data of these administrators / consultants during their tenure as a principal. What does the data show that would indicate that they formally tried to nurture and improve a teacher's practice? It would also be interesting to see if any of the teachers they personally rated as satisfactory were ever placed on an Improvement Plan by a succeeding principal.

Its one thing to Talk the Talk but it's most credible when you actually Walked the Walk!

Anonymous said...

Board members curious? Are you kidding? They are like sheep and just do what Central Admin. tells them to do. If they collectively were asking questions, PPS wouldn't be in the mess they are in. They are useless.

Anonymous said...

Reginal Holley is definitely having an effect on the Board.

Not one Board member dares to respond to her challenges directed at the Administration. Nor, for that matter does the Administration dare to respond directly to her questions. Answers always circumvent the issue at hand and never directly answer the question.

French and Lippert have absolutely no credibility when it comes to experience, expertise, knowledge or success at academic or educational leadership. So, as typical, they surround themselves with people who do not know the difference.

The myriad of consultants that they bring in have no vested interest in Pittsburgh's urban student population. They come and go, always collecting huge fees, with no accountability attached.

And so it goes, year after year after year with no end in sight.

We can only hope that the public will begin to see the light and support Regina Holley and Mark Brentley in their steadfast advocacy for Pittsburgh's urban student population.