Obama/Duncan and Bloomberg/Klein understand that the key to higher achievement is teacher quality.
We forget that Mike Bloomberg created an innovative and effective deliverer of financial news and information services: Bloomberg L. P. , worth more than 20 billion dollars and with more than 10,000 employees.
At Bloomberg L. P., and in the school system that the key to success
is employing and retaining the “best and the brightest” and providing them with the tools, the supports, to succeed. The six years of Children’s First, with successes and glaring failures, has been a campaign to increase teacher quality
* recruitment: teachers and principals (Teaching Fellows, TFA, Leadership Academy)
In 1997 17% of teachers were uncertified, vacant classrooms filled with a revolving door of teachers populated the lowest achieving schools across the city.
44% in salary increases coupled with highly selective teacher recruitment programs (i. e., Teaching Fellows and Teacher for America) and the upgraded teacher education programs at CUNY has resulted in many qualified applicants for each position.
The Leadership Academy, and the less well known principal training programs (New Leaders for New Schools and the Scaffolded Apprenticeship Model (SAM)) have been far less successful. Accepting candidates without highly successful teaching careers and without evidence of on-site leadership skills has produced too many principals who stumble.
* retention: (Open Market)
Open Market has allowed schools to be staffed solely by teachers selected by a principal. The exclusion of teachers from the hiring process is a mistake (“participation reduces resistance”). Teachers participating in the selection of colleagues strengthens morale and builds teams.
Under Open Market thousands of teachers, mostly relatively new teachers, skip from school to school. The ability to “vote with your feet” allows teachers to move to schools at which they are a “better fit,” and, flee schools lead by ineffective, non-collegial principals. The Department should look carefully at schools with large numbers of teachers choosing to leave. The deteriorating economy will probably increase teacher retention.
* upgrading skills of teachers and principals(Support Organization)
Empowerment, over 500 schools divided into networks of about 25 schools each, and a range of other Support Organizations, some with hundreds of schools and others with only a handful, provide the ill-defined term, “support.”
Each Support Organization has a different approach, it is a complex and difficult to assess model. The organizations are congruent in that they all support schools in their inquiry work, and, work with schools to increase Progress Report grades … are they improving schools ability to manipulate data or are they improving instruction? I fear the former.
* site-based decision-making (Principal as CEO)
The principal as CEO model is deeply flawed, schools are complex organizations, leadership and team-building are the keys to success. The CEO model discourages collaboration. Especially in schools with newer principals who lack staff respect and leadership ability. In too many schools principals threaten and teachers, through their union push back. School leaders are carefully selected by Tweed, the former C-30 process is a charade. Are the new principals exemplary teachers? Have they exhibited leadership in prior school positions? The DOE “measurement” of potential principals is whether they understand data and are totally committed to the current DOE inquiry data systems. Simon Legree should not be a supervisory role model.
* site decisions based upon data (ARIS, Inquiry Team)
Each and every school is required to have an Inquiry Team, a number of teachers who take a deep look at a group of low achieving students, using data available through ARIS, the DOE data warehouse. The results of the research are theoretically shared with the staff and will result in changes in practice. Taking a really close look at student data, achievement data, is always worthwhile. What are the decisions that result from an exploration of the data? Unfortunately I have not seen this process resulting in a change in teacher practice. In too many schools it has become a compliance exercise. This is a classic example of how top down ukase rarely result in change. The second data initiative, non-inferential teacher observations, now called transcription, is generally ignored. It is unwieldy. Unfortunately the Department should encourage schools to use the range of video tools that have proven effective around the country (see Flanders Interaction Analysis and Cognitive Coaching.
* individual and site evaluation (TDI and Progress Reports)
How do we measure individual teacher input? now called “value-added.” The Department started a Teacher Data Initiative (TDI), however the output is not encouraging. The Department recently contracted with a highly regarded research institution to further investigate this question. It is highly controversial, teachers are suspicious, and, the result could have enormous consequences on teacher evaluation and teacher remuneration.
Progress Reports drive schools, are the Report resulting in the improvement of instruction or are schools getting better at manipulating data …? The wide disparity between Report cards grades, State NCLB status and NAEP scores make me highly suspect.
* “pruning,” upgrading staff through dismissals (Accelerated U Ratings, Rubber Rooms)
Care must be taken in hiring teachers, and, even more care in making tenure decisions. Unfortunately the Department, with Joel Klein in the lead, seems to be gloating about the increased number of U ratings and probationary discontinuances. Are greater numbers of inadequate teachers receiving U rating? or, are principals punishing teachers who “disagree” with them? Hundreds and hundreds of teachers are sitting in Teacher Reassignment Centers, rubber rooms, and only a small percent will actually be brought up on charges of incompetence. Some aver that that “rubber rooms,” filled with teachers, are a negotiating ploy rather than a discipline procedure.
Teacher quality is at the core of school excellence, unfortunately the lessons of Bloomberg LP have not transferred to Klein LP, aka, the Department of Education.