SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for the ‘merit pay’ Category

Take no prisoners, er…teachers

By Leo Bennett-Cauchon

Let’s pledge that children come first at Sac City Unified.
Let’s promise to put a child’s best interest at the heart of every decision we make.
Let’s stand up together.
What would happen?

Dear Board Members:

For your consideration tonight and this coming school year I would like to offer an alternative vision from my home town. I have many nieces and nephews in San Diego so I continue to follow education where I began public school teaching. This was during the Alan Bersin era of top down change.

This era is featured by Diane Ravitch in her recent book which I hope you are pondering. Here are some excerpts from an interview with her on SDUSD’s experience with the pilot project of the change model that SCUSD is adopting in many ways, even if it is dressed in a gentler style.

Why San Diego? What is it about the battles here that proved important for you in illustrating a larger point about school reform?
San Diego was a very important district in the current reform narrative because it was the first big district to apply the top-down approach. The leadership knew exactly what teachers should be doing, and they required compliance. Its “take-no-prisoners” approach was subsequently copied by Joel Klein in New York City and Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C.

Conflict is a sign of failed leadership in education. When one is running a prison system, it is important to have a tough, top-down style, because you can’t take chances. But in education, the leadership must rely on the teachers to do the daily work. If the leadership does not win their willing, even enthusiastic, support, then the reforms will stall. Teachers are educated adults; they have experience with students. They don’t like to be treated like children. They need to feel respected.

There are plenty of problems in San Diego but I do think that the board majority there (which also operates with a policy governance model) can provide examples that are worth your consideration.

Below is an excerpt from the March annual State of the District speech by the board president. I urge you to consider placing the vision of community-driven change ahead of chief-driven change:

“The competing vision for reform comes from what I would characterize as the community model. This vision sees change as fundamentally coming from those closest to kids – teachers, parents, principals, support staff at the school such as paraeducators, counselors, librarians and office staff, community volunteers and even students themselves. The community model puts its faith in strong relationships built between people within a school community, striving for what University of Chicago professors Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider term ‘Trust in Schools.’ ” (SDUSD President)

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Teacher raises afoot?

From the Trenches

Optimism on School’s Chief Hiring Practice:

We teachers have all been sacrificing lately for the good of students and the financial solvency of SCUSD. I have an SCUSD-tested plan, however, to help us improve our financial and working condition, especially in light of the SCTA-generated concessions to our District. Here’s what we do.

Apply to the SCUSD school board to use the title, “Chief”, in front of our employee classification. For example, I would take over the moniker, Chief 6th Grade G.A.T.E. Teacher of Phoebe Hearst (it’s better to use capital letters…more credibility). You can immediately see how much more grandeur it gives a lowly teacher. But there are a host of reasons why we all should use the title, Chief:

*It improves student discipline. We all understand the importance of students deferring to classroom authority. Quiet kids make for productive kids.

*Classroom learning is enhanced. Studies show that totally compliant children make marked gains on standardized tests, the only true reliable test of student achievement.

*Teacher appearance necessarily will approach some higher standard. Let’s face it, a Chief Anything can’t come to school to improve learning for students in, say, jeans and sneakers!?! I’m a proponent of the bowtie, for example. You all must have lots of ideas on how we can dress ourselves more properly. Let’s do mandatory in-service on how to enrich a school community by what Chief Teachers wear. If only we could enlist some administrative help with teacher wardrobes.

*Parent-teacher conferences will go more smoothly and there will be more of them as well. No parent is going to dare skip the chance to talk to a “Chief” Teacher, and those pesky questions about student progress will be a thing of the past.

But this is the best news. We’ll all get huge raises. I don’t know how the Superintendent does it, but it’ll happen. He’s so confident that he replaced the Chief Financial Officer of SCUSD with a Chief Communications Officer. The financial predicament we face must not be all that bad, I guess! Maybe we’ll all just talk our way through the mess. I’m all for it anyway; it’s way easier than doing math and stuff.

So that’s one chief at $100,000 plus per year. His Chief of Staff? Again up into the six figures. The new proposed Chief of Family and Parent Engagement is expected to cost a bundle. We don’t exactly know how much the new Chief of Accountability will make, but the District spent $52,000 for a North Carolina outfit (none available in our state, I guess) to study accountability for us, so you know it’s going to cost a lot to hire someone to oversee how students, and eventually teachers are doing. Gotta be in the $100,000 plus range, though. All totaled SCUSD boasts seven new chiefs and counting. Heck, Mr. Raymond is spending thousands of dollars just to move secretaries, I hear. So any of you certificated people out there that know some secretaries, let them know about what we can do for them, too. Let’s spread the wealth!

So my plan then, placing a capital Chief in front of our lowly titles, will automatically generate an average salary increase of $42,000 per year, roughly $1 for every student we serve— if you look at finances the way our District does. And don’t worry about the school board; they’ve approved every Chief thrown at them. Besides, the Sacramento Bee hasn’t questioned the impropriety of any of our Chief’s Chiefs. It’s all on the up and up. You see, friends, we’re golden; we can’t lose.

So let’s start applying then. The District is apparently long on dollars, longer on Chiefs. The only thing we may be in short supply of is common sense. But we can solve that with a new position…..Chief of Better Judgment. Of course, we’ll have to run that by the SCUSD Communications Department for fiscal soundness.

Erik Knudson
Applying for Chief Random Article Writer status as the Need Arises

Corporate restructuring

The news that Superintendent Jonathan Raymond is seeking permission from trustees to hire a chief accountability officer for SCUSD does not allay very real fears that Raymond is accelerating a push to develop a corporate education culture in Sacramento.

Consider these job titles: Chief Talent Officer, Chief Knowledge Officer, Chief Portfolio Officer…all with annual salary ranges between $125,000-175,000. New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, a strong proponent of privatization, devised this idea of “administrative restructuring.”

These executives (most who have never taught in a classroom or been a principal) make the rounds throughout the countries’ school systems while changing job titles and descriptions. It’s a smorgasboard of CEO’s. Raymond was a chief accountability officer before he was hired in Sacramento.

The ultimate goal is to run the school system like a corporation –SCUSD teachers will have continued pressure to “teach the test” and improve API scores — data will be relentlessly tracked and tied to performance by the chief accountability officer.

This reform leads to what education historian Diane Ravitch calls a huge mistake:

Teachers — not just union leaders — are unhappy, frustrated, and demoralized. So are parents, because they don’t like the high-stakes testing regime either. They don’t like that their children are losing time for the arts, science, history, geography, physical education, foreign languages, and everything that is not tested. They may not be well-informed, yet they know that their children are missing out on a good education.

Well, that’s one way to take care of staffing at the Priority Schools…

The following email went out to selected staff at SCUSD on Friday April 9, 2010:

Congratulations! On behalf of SCUSD, we are pleased to inform you that you are one of a select few outstanding teachers eligible for an exciting new district program – the Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI).
The Talent Transfer Initiative is a highly selective, federally funded initiative that recognizes current SCUSD teachers who have a track record of contributing to student achievement gains by offering them the opportunity to take on a new challenge by using their skills in high-needs schools – where they are needed most and can have the most profound impact. If you choose to transfer to a participating SCUSD school, you will be eligible to receive $20,000 over a two-year period in recognition of the adjustment that comes with taking on a new position, as well as for the potential tremendous impact you can take at your new school. This research study is funded by the U.S. Department of Education; participation requires no expenditure whatsoever of district funds.
For more information about the Talent Transfer Initiative, including an overview of the program, benefits, and frequently asked question, visit http://www.talenttransferintiative.org. To access available information about SCUSD, use this password information:
Username: xxxxxx
Password: xxxxx
Coral A. Jenrette, Program Manager for the Talent Transfer Initiative, will contact you directly to invite you to the reception being held in your honor on April 19. She will also send you the unique username and password you will need to complete the online application (deadline is April 27). Please feel free to reach out to her with any questions at coral@talenttransferinitiative.org or (800) 688-6983 ext 3.
SCUSD is looking forward to working with you to help our students succeed.
Sincerely,

Mary Shelton
Acting Chief Academic Officer
Sacramento City Unified School District

Written by scusdobserver

April 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm

No child left behind races to the top?

Last week’s release of the AYP Progress report for SCUSD shows that many of the schools in our district are failing to adequately educate Sacramento children according to No Child Left Behind standards.

SCUSD schools in year 1 of program improvement status jumped from 3 in 2008-09 to 15 to 2009-10.

The statistics are troubling
. Many of our local high schools are at risk of entering PI status next year.

In last week’s Sacramento Bee, Superintendent Raymond describes the vicious cycle of program improvement:

“It’s like the Hotel California, you check in but you never check out.”

What constitutes failure? STAR test results? Isn’t it clearly obvious that NCLB has most educators focused on “teaching the test”?

The one-size-fits-all approach to the law doesn’t reflect or support the incredibly varied needs and strengths of the schools …

Enter President Obama’s Race to the Top, part of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In order to receive federal money, California must tie teacher performance to test results and legislators will soon meet in a special session to consider Governor Schwarzenegger’s “Race To the Top” plan which would allow merit pay and more charter schools.

Consequently, the teachers’ unions feel squeezed by former allies, including the president, seeing more of the same, tired rhetoric around test scores as opposed to real, educational reform.

And, by the way, is anyone asking the local teachers about reform? Is there any other profession in this country where salary is used as a punitive measure? Do we pay legislators on how many laws they pass?

It’s long overdue to start listening to educators, teachers and parents.

It’s hard to fathom that Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who has never taught in a classroom) has a better idea of reform for our district than say, Susan Miller.

Will you take Arnold Schwarzenneger’s advice on how to enrich your kid’s high school experience? Wouldn’t your principal be just a bit more knowledgeable?

Let’s ask Kevin Johnson to come into your child’s elementary school class and give the teacher some pointers on how to race to the top…

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