Union asks teachers to evaluate principals

Scranton teachers are evaluating their principals at two elementary schools, reports the Times-Tribune. The Scranton Federation of Teachers, which voted “no confidence” in district administrators in November, plans to expand the effort to all principals and administrators, up to the superintendent.

The evaluation forms include a ranking scale with questions ranging from the visibility of a principal to whether the principal collaborates with teachers. Comments can also be made, and the surveys are anonymous.

If this is not just a gotcha, it could prove useful.

Pennsylvania plans to implement a principal evaluation system in the 2014-15 school year.

Study: States lack data on principals

A good school requires a good principal, nearly everyone agrees. But most states collect little or no information about how their principals are prepared, licensed, supported and evaluated, concludes Operating in the Dark, an analysis by the Dallas-based George W. Bush Institute.

“While 47 states reported they have adopted standards for principal effectiveness . . . just 17 states include learning outcomes when evaluating principal-preparation programs,” notes Ed Week. “Only six states—Connecticut, Georgia, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington—use some evidence of effectiveness in renewing principals’ licenses.”Rhode Island  creating comprehensive systems to follow principals from their training programs through licensing, placement, and school leadership.

Federal discipline rules could hurt blacks

Sen. Dick Durbin’s hearing on the “school to prison pipeline” may lead to federal mandates to curtail the use of out-of-school suspensions,  make suspension policies uniform across schools, or both, writes Andrew Coulson of Cato @ Liberty, who testified against zero-tolerance policies at the hearing.

Black students are more likely to be suspended than whites. However, requiring lenient discipline policies would hurt black students the most, Coulson writes.

In Understanding the Black-White School Discipline Gap, Rochester University Professor Joshua Kinsler concludes that black and white students are suspended at the same rates for the same offenses at the same schools, Coulson writes.

However principals at predominantly black schools issue more and longer suspensions to all students — black and white — while discipline policies are more lenient for all students at predominantly white schools.

In a subsequent empirical study, Kinsler investigated what would happen if all schools were compelled to observe a more lenient suspension policy, to close the black/white discipline gap. He found that this would disproportionately hurt the achievement of African American students, widening the black/white achievement gap.  The reason for this, according to Kinsler’s findings, is that serious suspensions do in fact discourage misbehavior, and that removing disruptive students from the class does improve the achievement of the other students.

In his written testimony, Coulson proposed alternatives to out-of-school suspensions that motivate students to behave while protecting their classmates from disruption.

Chubb: Get serious about high-quality teachers

Today’s teachers “don’t come close to meeting the academic standards being set for students” writes John Chubb in The Best Teachers in the World.

A proficient score on NAEP reading or math translates into at least a 600 on the SAT, or about a 1200 overall. The most generous estimate of the aptitude of new U.S. teachers recently estimated SAT scores of 515 in critical reading (formerly verbal) and 506 in math, or 1021 overall.

Once on the job, teachers rarely are held accountable for their students’ performance, Chubb writes. And “by international standards teachers are not highly compensated in the United States—at least one factor that determines the quality of individuals attracted to a profession and willing to stick with it.” In short, “U.S. education policy is not serious about high-quality teachers.”

The U.S. needs to recruit high achievers to teaching and give them “work that is less menial and more expert, less prescribed and more responsible,” Chubb writes. Using technology to improve productivity would make it possible to raise pay to attract top talent.

 Teaching is not an art, to which some are born and others are not. It is an intellectually demanding endeavor that can and should be guided by research-based practice. Teachers should be trained, both before they take charge of a classroom and thereafter. They should not be trained, however, in the schools of education that predominate today.

Finally, high-quality teaching requires high-quality principals, who “create the working conditions that help determine whether great teachers remain.”

Chubb’s new book is The Best Teachers in the World: Why We Don’t Have Them and How We Could.

 

How to get the best teachers

In The Best Teachers in the World, John Chubb advocates reconfiguring schools to make good use of teachers and technology, eliminating teacher licensing requirements and giving school principals increased responsibility for hiring, developing and retaining strong teachers.

Good principals are great

Good principals are very, very good for teachers and students, concludes a study in Education Next. “For student outcomes, greater attention to the selection and retention of high-quality principals would have a very high payoff,” write Gregory F. Branch, Eric A. Hanushek and Steven G. Rivkin.

. . . highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year; ineffective principals lower achievement by the same amount. These impacts are somewhat smaller than those associated with having a highly effective teacher. But teachers have a direct impact on only those students in their classroom; differences in principal quality affect all students in a given school.

Less-effective teachers are more likely to leave schools run by highly effective principals, the study found. “Good principals are likely to make more personnel changes in grade levels where students are under-performing.”

Unsuccessful principals aren’t weeded out, especially those teaching in high-poverty schools. Those who leave go to other schools.

The value-added analysis looked at “the extent to which math achievement in a school is higher or lower than would be expected based on the characteristics of students in that school, including their achievement in the prior year.”

99.4% of Michigan teachers are ‘effective’

Great news from Michigan: 99.4 percent of teachers in 10 of the state’s largest school districts are “effective,” according to an Education Trust-Midwest report. And 98 percent of principals responsible for teacher evaluations were “effective,” adds Michigan Capitol Confidential in News from Lake Wobegon.

How schools can keep their best teachers

Rated “highly effective” as a Washington D.C. special-ed teacher, Allison Frieze received a $15,000 bonus, but she quit her low-performing, high-poverty school to teach similar students at a charter school. Here’s how schools can keep their best teachers, she writes in the Washington Post.

“To retain our irreplaceable teachers, we need irreplaceable leaders,” she writes.When she was rated “highly effective,” her school cut off the coaching that had helped her improve.

For the evaluations that followed, I was videotaped, rather than observed in person, and I received my scores in writing, rather than during a feedback-driven conference. As far as my school leadership was concerned, I was a great teacher, but I still felt that I had plenty to learn — and I was no longer receiving opportunities to do so. Instead of feeling valued, I ended up feeling neglected.

. . . superb leaders demonstrate the elusive character trait of grit. That’s a commitment and determination to achieve a goal, no matter what it takes. A principal with grit knows that he or she can’t succeed without a team of great teachers and sets clear retention goals for high-performers. This principal is honest with teachers who are struggling, even when it’s uncomfortable, and does not consider inaction, failure or silence as acceptable responses to ineffective teaching. This principal pushes every teacher to his or her full potential. Finally, this principal asks the best teachers, “What is it going to take to keep you here?”

Can an average principal motivate a high-performing teacher?

And, yes, I’m already getting tired of “grit.”

Chicago teachers go on strike

Chicago teachers are on strike,reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago Public Schools administrators are staffing some elementary schools to offer half-day child care; some churches and community centers also are open to children.

The city’s charter schools are open as usual. About one third have room for more students.

Key disputed issues in the talks were teacher cost of living raises, additional pay for experience, job security in the face of annual school closures and staff shakeups, and a new teacher evaluation process that ties teacher ratings in part to student test score growth.

. . . CTU officials contend that CPS’ offer of raises over the next four years does not fairly compensate them for the 4 percent raise they lost this past school year and the longer and “harder” school year they will face this school year, with the introduction of a tougher new curriculum.

The union also wants “smaller class sizes, more libraries, air-conditioned schools, and more social workers and counselors to address the increasing needs of students surrounded by violence,” reports the Sun-Times. Chicago has been hit by a wave of homicides this year. Many of the victims are children, teens and young adults.

CPS officials say teachers average $76,000 a year and would earn 16 percent more over four years in the proposed contract. The district could face a $1 billion deficit by the end of the school year.

Pay isn’t the big issue, argues a Reuters analysis. The teachers’ union is fighting education reforms that make it easier to fire teachers and close schools if test scores don’t improve.

In Chicago, last-minute contract talks broke down not over pay, but over the reform agenda, both sides said Sunday. The union would not agree to (Mayor Rahm) Emanuel’s proposal that teacher evaluations be based in large measure on student test scores.

Nor would the union accept his push to give principals more autonomy over hiring, weakening the seniority system that has long protected veteran teachers.

“This is fight for the soul of public education,” said Brandon Johnson, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union.

Did both sides want a strike? asks Alexander Russo.

“It’s a strike of choice,” says Emanuel.

What’s the principal’s job?

These days, principals are supposed to be “innovative and tough-minded instructional leaders, on-top-of-everything CEOs, and smooth political tacticians,” writes Larry Cuban. He includes a graphic.

“Managing, instructing, and politicking–are essential to the daily work of principals,” Cuban writes.

Researchers have observed elementary and secondary principals over the past century and documented time and again that most of their daily activities (at least half) are spent in administrative tasks. Managing a building, staff, children and youth, parents, central office officials, external agencies and companies doing business with the school consumes big chunks of time. And that is just to keep the place working and on course for teachers to teach and students to learn.

Reformers want principals to be instruction leaders, designing instruction, coaching teachers, visiting classrooms daily, teaching occasionally and evaluating teachers, Cuban writes. But when researchers shadowed 65 principals in Miami-Dade County, they found managerial tasks took most of the school day.  ”What’s more, those principals who spend the most time on organizing and managing the instructional program have test scores and teacher and parental satisfaction results  that are higher than those principals who spend time coaching teachers and popping into classroom lessons.”

While many teachers are Trending Toward Reform, their lack of faith in principals’ ability to remove ineffective teachers hasn’t changed since 2007, writes Ed Sector’s Sarah Rosenberg in Same Old, Same Old: Principal (In)action.

Depending on the circumstance, an effective and proactive principal may initiate formal proceedings or quietly encourage the teacher to leave. But according to teachers, only 33% of principals will take one of these steps to dismiss an ineffective teacher.

. . . Teachers believe that principals often do nothing (16%), or transfer the teacher to another school in the “Dance of the Lemons” (13%.)

Principals need training to become effective evaluators, Rosenberg writes. And then they need the authority to recruit and retain the most effective teachers.