Posts Tagged ethics

241 Teachers Lose Jobs

Michelle Rhee announced this week the firing of 241 teachers as part of the ongoing implementation of a broad based reform movement (IMPACT) that she undertook just a short time ago. This program is not new content and is ultimately based on work by Marzano and Waters (2009 and prior) that connects the essence of reform to the concept of “value added.” They also equate this term with words like “growth” and “knowledge gains” to give context to the meaning.

Interestingly, the media has attached this value added concept to student test scores when discussing the evaluation that took place while screening for failing or ineffective teachers. I think this may be over-simplification of the concept of accountability for formative assessment gains over time that was originally proposed by Marzano and Waters. In fact, there should be a plan in place to address both curriculum and assessment tied to these plans and accountability measures.

If she is looking only at achievement test scores, then this plan is flawed and should be addressed immediately. I doubt that based on the material I have reviewed on the IMPACT website and the foundational literature upon which it is based. I suggest that this may be the best of the recent spate of firings because it has strong pedagogy behind it.

731 additional teachers are on notice to improve. This group will be the ones to watch. If these reforms truly meet the demands of eliciting greater achievement in the classroom, then these teachers will be the test of the efficacy of accountability. Under increase scrutiny, do you think these teachers will get better? Will supports be provided consistent with the pressure as leading researchers have confirmed is critical?

The union fight is inevitable and unlikely to draw too much attention. We all know that the union works for these fired teachers are required by their policies as a representative of the teachers to pursue accordingly. It is unlikely, however, that any of these teachers will find their way back to DC classrooms because the leadership cannot afford to be undercut in their search of excellence and in the shadow of an election year for Fenty. For this number of people to move through the appeal and/or arbitration process will likely take years. I think Michelle’s staff is counting on that.

About the only thing they need to worry about is finding enough teachers to take the open positions. The salary incentives installed as part of this measure will require a decade before new teachers will be encouraged to join the ranks and fill the empty spots. This is a nationwide barrier to the kind of turnover many expect. Thus, the dance of the lemons continues unabated until we find instrumental ways to renew and inspire teachers who have been disenfranchised by incompetent leaders for decades. The underlying story of these firings has to include the question – How did these teachers remain in their posts for so long without scrutiny? What was wrong with the administration that allowed this to continue for so long? And, finally – Where do you think these teachers will ultimately land?

References

Marzano, R. J., & Waters, T. (2009). District Leadership That Works: Striking the Right Balance. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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Anatomy of trust…

This has been a busy week in University Place. Two events have shaken this community in recent days and both times I found myself on television as a bystander while events unfolded. The first was a city council meeting where parents and students showed up in large numbers after being convinced that the youth sports program of the city was about to be decimated by revenue shortfalls and looming budget cuts.  While it was accurate that the shortfalls will likely mean 25% budget cuts across the board, the cutting of youth sports was not yet in the proposal loop.  The political nature of the method used to bring this issue up on the eve of the election was called into question and the final result:  two long time council members ousted from their positions and lots of angry residents that no longer trust the council or the city staff.  I feel bad for Debbie Klosowski who takes over as Mayor in December.  She has a significant amount of repair work to do.

In the following video, look for me on the right side in the first wide angle shot of the audience.  My brother Jim behind me and to my right.  I’m sitting next to school board member and long time friend, Mary Lu Dickinson.

The second was an incident at my son’s middle school that involved an impostor who pretended to be a military veteran and spent three hours on campus before it was discovered that he actually posed a threat to student safety.

At the board meeting the following night, concerned parents expressed their frustration over the incident.  The news crew from KING TV were there again with camera at the ready.  Nobody wanted to relive the issue again, but that seems unavoidable for the near future as new information continues to come to light.  Since this person was on campus for over three hours, it’s likely they will never have all the details of what was said and to whom.

What this incident does remind us of is the daily challenges we face in maintaining trust after we’ve earned it.  In both cases, the people most affected — city council and school administration — had earned trust and respect from years of dedicated accomplishment.  Events like this can bring all of that crashing down around you in a few short minutes of either best intentions gone awry or inadvertent complacency.  Nobody deserves the lost trust that emerged from both these incidents, but that is the price being paid – at least for the moment.

One conversation I had with a teacher today reminded me of how difficult change is for all of us.  Unfettered by accountability or rigorous reinforcement, we typically return to old habits rather than sustaining institutional change.  In many ways, both incidents are the result of this aspect of both leadership and followership.  For the council, 15 years of spending growth to keep pace with city development kept them from seeing the financial downturn on the horizon.  As a result, 4 million in reserve disappeared literally overnight with little planning in place to address this shortfall.  For the school district, leading edge procedures and policies were decayed by a close knit community built on an open door policy that is decades old.  In a community like this, visitor badges and staff ID seemed unnecessary and even cumbersome.  How to change minds and sensibilities?

Kotter and Cohen (2002) bring us the best framework for institutionalizing change.  8 steps that seek not only change, but sustainability — and that’s really what’s at stake here.

Kotter, J. P., & Cohen, D. S. (2002). The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 

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The Real Crisis

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