SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Posts Tagged ‘teachers

SB 1422 gives students a much-needed voice

By Jordan Feri

What is SB1422? Is it a way for students to effectively get their teachers fired? A tool for teachers to pick out the students who harbor animosity towards them? Or is it simply a useless and unneeded piece of legislation?

In fact, SB1422 is none of these things. Rather, it is a way for students statewide to provide anonymous feedback to their teachers, without the risk of negative repercussions on the part of the teacher. With this bill in place, teachers would also have the ability to choose whether or not they participate in their school’s program, and then would be allowed to choose if their results are kept private or made public.

To be more specific, “This bill would authorize the student government of a school maintaining any of grades 9 to 12, inclusive, to establish a committee of pupils and teachers to develop a survey by which pupils may provide feedback to teachers…Survey responses would be confidential and made known only to the teacher whose class is surveyed. Administrators and school or district officials would be prohibited from viewing or having access to any completed pupil survey without the express written consent of the teacher to whom the survey relates. The surveys would be prohibited from becoming part of a teacher’s personnel record, from being included in or used to influence the existing teacher evaluation process, and from being used for collective bargaining purposes.” (SB 1422)

As a member of the California Association of Student Councils (the organization which has written and sponsored the bill for the past 47 years) who has worked to get this bill passed, I do have somewhat of a bias when it comes to this particular piece of legislation. However, to be perfectly honest, my views as both a student and a member of CASC are one and the same. In my opinion, this bill has no possible negative repercussions for the students and teachers of California; teachers can choose to participate (so the bad ones can opt out) and students get the much-needed chance to offer input on how they would like to be taught. In our current education system, students often lack the much-needed voice that they deserve, as most communication takes place between the administration and teachers of a school. I know that I have had a teacher that could use this sort of feedback on more than one occasion, and I’m sure that other students have too. With a program for the student evaluation of teachers in place, the primary stakeholders in education, students, are given the chance to open up a direct line of communication between themselves and their teachers. In effect, this bill can only offer the chance for self improvement on the part of those teachers who are brave enough to open themselves to constructive criticism.

The only existing opposition to this bill that I can think of pertains to the fact that it is permissive, not mandatory, and will thus have no real effect on the quality of teachers. However, without a system for the student evaluation of teachers currently in place, in most cases only a small number of teachers opt to create their own evaluations. With the introduction of the system created by this bill, as student governments take the initiative to create their own evaluations, it is more than likely that a greater number of teachers will choose to participate. Therefore, while this bill will not mandate that teachers participate or make changes based on their own feedback, it is inevitable that the number of instructors who use student evaluations to improve their own teaching methods will increase exponentially.

For more information on the subject of student evaluation of teachers, read the following:

What Would Happen If We Treated Students as Those With Opinions That Matter? The Benefits to Principals and Teachers of Supporting Youth Engagement at School by Allison Cook-Sather

Student Evaluation of Teachers by June E. Thompson

Seven Premises for Improving Teacher Evaluation by William R. Norris


Written by triplejf

August 14, 2010 at 10:47 am

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)

Time for the board to step up

By Lori A. Jablonksi

Sixty-seven teachers at C.K. McClatchy High School voted this week to overwhelmingly support the collective bargaining agreement between the district and Sacramento City Teachers Association.

I want to make sure I do my best to convey the general sense and mood as
McClatchy teachers gave their approval to donate to the District over $1,000
annually for the next two years to fund elementary class-size reduction and
to establish a retiree benefit trust.

Teachers voted with no guarantee that the counselors we so desperately
need at the middle and high school levels will return.  And they did
so without any word whether pink-slipped high school teachers would be
back in the classrooms next year.  One teacher called his vote a “leap of
faith” that the Board will finally “get it” and start paying attention to
the budget and actual spending, rather than just approve what the District
staff presents.

Another, a teacher with teens soon to start college, had tears in her
eyes as she voted (actually, quite a few did).  She told me that with her
husband furloughed and with the astonishing increases in the price of
tuition she had no idea what she was going to do about her kids’
college future.  This agreement, she said, would essentially wipe away
what little discretionary income her family had left each month. (She
noted too, as did several others, that at least with furloughs they could
spend the day off at home. A bit of gallows humor, perhaps, in a
terrible situation.)  Nevertheless, she told me she voted for it, as did
over 90% of the McClatchy staff.

Most concerning to me, however, was the overall sense of skepticism
expressed that Superintendent Raymond and the members of the Board of
Trustees truly appreciate that the teachers have agreed to make a
significant financial sacrifice in order to repudiate the “race to the
bottom” mentality others were so quick to embrace:  that furloughs (teaching
fewer days!) in any way, shape or form are consistent with “putting kids

Now that the agreement has been ratified, the District, thanks in large part
to its teachers, should be celebrated far and wide as a place where the
school year was kept intact, students and families were not turned away
through furloughs, and the true education mission was preserved.

It is now time to ask SCUSD board members to step up and match the
commitment shown by District teachers to keep cuts as far away from the kids
as possible.

Over the past year, I have joined others, including Board Member
Rodriguez, in advocating for a “line-by-line” budget review public work shop
in order to ensure that all dollars budgeted and spent are done so with
priority concerns–our kids’ classroom learning experience–in mind.

This is a plea to create such a process.

It will help re-assure teachers, parents and the community, at this
crucial time when so many are sacrificing so much, that the District Board
of Trustees are determined to leave no stone unturned to find ways to reduce
the cuts to teaching and support staff going forward.   We might even
discover a way to fully fund our middle and high school counselors and
restore some reality to the oft-stated principle that we believe in
nurturing a college-going culture in this district.

Why a “voluntary” contribution instead of furlough days?

I’m hearing some folks express concerns about the “voluntary” contribution being put in the contract concession, instead of furlough days. This idea was kicked around since about March or April, but hasn’t been clearly explained or articulated. Here is why I think it’s a better deal:

  1. Once days are given up on the calendar (especially around Thanksgiving) they are hard to bring back, even if the days you try to bring back are at the end or beginning of the year.
  2. Fewer days are bad for kids (less instruction), bad for teachers (less gross pay = less counting towards retirement, etc.)
  3. A contribution is easier to “sunset” or end in an agreement
  4. We can control where the money is allocated more specifically (only for bringing back certificated staff via CSR and returning counselor positions).
  5. It puts us in the position of putting kids, and their education first.

Whatever way it was done, this does involve money. As you can see from some of the comments on other posts on this subject, there will be pain, but I hope this gives a little more clarity about why this method was chosen over furloughs.

Written by alicemercer

June 16, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Posted in SCTA

Tagged with , ,