P.E. teachers outearn science teachers

P.E. teachers earn more than science teachers in several Michigan districts, reports the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

There are 19 gym teachers in the Farmington School District who make more than $85,000 a year each. The average gym teacher’s salary in Farmington is $75,035. By comparison, the science teachers in that district make $68,483 per year on average.

. . . In the Woodhaven-Brownstown district, 18.5 (FTE) science teachers average some $58,400 per year in salary, while 12 gym teachers averaged nearly $76,700. In Harrison, science teachers earned $49,000 on average while gym teachers averaged $62,000.

Science teachers — especially those educated in physics and chemistry — have private-sector options, so they’re always in short supply. But districts don’t pay more to keep teachers with hard-to-find skills. With fewer options in the private sector, P.E. teachers stay longer, climbing the seniority-based pay scale.

Via PJ Media’s Instapundit.

Public trusts teachers, but not their unions

Americans trust teachers, but not their unions, concludes the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll.

More than 70 percent of respondents have confidence in public school teachers; 69 percent give local teachers an A or B. However, nearly half say teachers’ unions hurt public education.

Three out of four said they’d encourage a bright student to become a teacher; 67 percent would like their own child to choose a public-school teaching career.

Americans increasingly support school choice, but only one of three favors vouchers, the poll reported.

Consistent with past findings, Americans believe teacher salaries should be based on multiple factors, including advanced degrees, experience, and the principal’s evaluations of the teacher. Students’ scores on standardized tests were rated as least important. Similarly, Americans believe that school districts should use multiple factors to determine which teachers should be laid off first, rather than basing it primarily on seniority (last hired, first fired).

College prepares graduates for the workforce, respondents said, but not all believe a college degree is sufficient for readiness.

Even more so than in the past, Americans give high marks to local schools, low marks to the nation’s schools, notes Rick Hess.

I’ll start by noting that I’m not a huge fan of the American public right now. After all, we’re the twits who demand lots of services but don’t want to pay for them. And then we get angry when our leaders can’t square this circle. We insist that they take painful steps to rein in spending, and then complain when they try to do it. In short, we’ve shown all the character and discipline of an irate preschooler.

While Americans strongly prefer small classes, 80 percent “believe that high school classes with more students and a better teacher would result in higher student achievement than would smaller classes with less effective teachers,” Hess notes.

40% of new teachers took alternative path

Forty percent of public school teachers hired since 2005 came through alternative preparation programs, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Information. That’s up from 22 percent of new teachers hired between 2000 and 2004, notes Ed Week‘s Teaching Now.

In addition, the survey found that alternative-route teachers are more in favor of using reforms such as performance pay, elimination of tenure, tying student achievement to teacher evaluations, and market-driven pay to strengthen the teaching profession than are their traditionally prepared counterparts.

However, nearly all teachers, regardless of certification route, support removing incompetent teachers without concern for seniority.

All teachers surveyed were “slightly more satisfied with general working conditions” and “more satisfied with the status of teachers” than those surveyed in earlier years, going back to 1986, reports Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011.

Baby boomers are retiring: Less than a third of teachers are 50 or older and 22 percent are younger than 30.

Eighty-four percent of public school teachers are female, up slightly, and 84 percent are white, down from 91 percent in 1986.

Laying off the least effective teachers

Seniority determines teacner layoffs in most school districts. Laying off the least-effective teachers, instead of the newest hires, would let districts retain more and better teachers for the same budgetary savings, write University of Washington researchers Dan Goldhaber and Roddy Theobald  in Education Next.

 Only 16 percent of Washington state teachers who received lay-off notices were in the least-effective category, the study concluded, comparing teachers for whom value-added scores could be generated.  Because the least-effective teachers are more senior and therefore earn higher pay, laying off 132 would save as much money as laying off 145 junior teachers.   

Furthermore, the least-effective group was 20 percent of a standard deviation lower in students’ math and reading achieve­ment then the least-senior group.

The magnitude of the difference is strik­ing, roughly equivalent to having a teacher who is at the 16th percentile of effectiveness rather than at the 50th percentile. This difference corresponds to roughly 2.5 to 3.5 months of student learning.

Black students are far more likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers who are the first to be laid off, the study found.  Effectiveness-based layoffs spread the disruption more evenly.

Some districts protect teachers in high-need specialties: Math and science teachers are less vulnerable to layoffs than P.E. and health teachers, for example. But in 70 percent of the nation’ s largest school districts, seniority alone determines the order of layoffs, the study concluded.

 That’s just crazy.

What’s next for effective teachers?

Rated “highly effective” in the Los Angeles Timesanalysis of value-added scores, fifth-grade teacher Miguel Aguilar faced jealousy from other teachers. Now he’s sharing his teaching techniques with his colleagues — and facing a layoff in the fall, reports the Times.

Many of Aguilar’s students — mostly low-income and Latino — started in the bottom 30% but scored well above average at the end of the year. By contrast, the teacher in the next classroom, John Smith,  ranked among the district’s least effective teachers. Aguilar, who has eight years seniority, received a pink slip warning he may be laid off; Smith, with 15 years’ seniority, will keep his job, even if cuts are severe.

Aguilar said he “went through hell” when the article came out, he told the Times.

“There’s a lot of jealousy and hate out there…. People said things like, ‘There’s this guy who thinks he’s all good just because he’s Latino and he’s friends with the kids. How do you know he’s not cheating?’”

However, teachers — including Smith — began coming to Aguilar for help. The principal and teachers say there’s “a new openness to talking about what works, an urgent desire to improve.”

Top teachers will be head-hunted for jobs as teaching coaches, predicts Michael Goldstein on Starting an Ed School. Teachers like Aguilar with high value-added scores should be recruited as coaches, leaders, higher-paid teachers or teachers who get “curriculum freedom, assistance with certain tasks, flexible funds for student projects or trips’ or whatever else they want, he writes.

High-scoring schools now get hundreds of visitors. The same should apply to unusually effective teachers, writes Goldstein, who founded Boston’s MATCH school.

LIFO is out

Last-in, first-out layoffs are out in Georgia, reports Teacher Beat. It’s a trend.

The bill, SB 184, prohibits local boards of education from using seniority as the “primary or sole” determining factor when implementing a reduction in force. Boards that don’t comply can have some of their state education funds withheld.

Georgia’s action follows that of Utah, where a similar bill was recently signed into law. Other states that have recently ended LIFO through legislation include Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona, in addition to the District of Columbia through its recent teachers’ contract.

Illinois teachers’ unions have agreed to an anti-LIFO bill that allows both performance and seniority to be taken into account in deciding who get laid off.

Dennis Walcott, New York City’s new schools chancellor, wants a LIFO exemption from the state, but the teachers’ unions and Democrats in the legislature are opposed.

Not surprisingly, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has a no-LIFO plan as part of his education reform bill.

Detroit Public Schools is sending layoff notices to all teachers and administrators. Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager who’s running the troubled district, said he’ll use a new law that lets him  modify or terminate collective bargaining agreements.

Detroit is losing enrollment. By pink-slipping everyone, Bobb opens the door to non-LIFO layoffs. He can  retain the teachers and administrators he thinks are best and lay off the rest.

LIFO threatens high-need schools

A 5 percent budget cut for Tacoma Public Schools could trigger layoffs for one quarter to one half the teachers at “turnaround” schools, concludes a study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington.

“Last in, first out” policies disproportionately affect Washington state schools receiving federal School Improvement Grants (SIGs). intended to transform chronically low-performing schools.

Many teachers in these schools are newly hired, chosen on the basis of high ability and commitment to education of disadvantaged children.

In Washington’s SIG schools, about 23% of teachers are in their first three years of teaching. That’s nearly twice the proportion of new teachers in other schools in the same districts.

LIFO layoffs could destabilize schools and undermine turnaround efforts, the study warns.

Under a court-ordered settlement, Los Angeles schools with high-need students and young teachers will be protected from layoffs.

Education Experts are discussing how to measure teacher effectiveness on National Journal.

Study: Seniority rights widen achievement gap

Is collective bargaining good for students, asks Tom Jacobs on Miller-McCune Online

When New Mexico teachers regained collective bargaining rights after four years without them, SAT scores rose while graduation rates fell, according to a study published in the Yale Law Journal.

Disadvantaged students lost ground, concluded author Benjamin Lindy, a Yale law student and a former middle-school teacher.

“Between 1993 and 1999, New Mexico required collective bargaining with teachers’ unions. The law expired in 1999 and wasn’t renewed till 2003, creating a window in which districts could refuse to bargain with unions.

He found no impact on spending per student.  But student achievement patterns did change.

That’s because teachers lost transfer rights in the no-bargaining interim, Lindy theorizes. Before 1999 and after 2003, senior teachers could  “concentrate themselves in a district’s higher-income, higher-performing schools,” which are easier places to teach.  The least-experienced teachers were concentrated in high-poverty schools.

“This change in transfer rights is especially significant, because it helps explain not only why low-performing students began to improve (when the teachers lost collective bargaining rights), but also why the achievement of high-performing students began to fall,” Lindy writes. “If districts were able to shift high-quality teachers away from concentrated areas of high performance to areas of high-need, one would expect to see the performance of high-achieving students fall.”

So when contracts are negotiated that give teachers with seniority a major say in where they’ll teach, the result is already-advantaged students get yet another advantage: more experienced instructors. This helps them raise their test scores even higher. Meanwhile, the poorer kids get less-experienced teachers, leaving them still further behind and more likely to drop out.

Not all union contracts give senior teachers the right to choose their school, but it’s very common.

Note that Lindy’s analysis suggests that experienced teachers are more effective teachers.

Hiring, retaining talented teachers

Teachers reject quality-blind layoffs, reports The New Teacher Project, which advocates A Smarter Teacher Layoff System.

Fully 40 percent of the nation’s teachers (1.25 million) work in one of 14 states — Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wisconsin — where it’s currently illegal for schools to consider job performance in making layoff decisions. Ten of these states are facing budget deficits greater than 10 percent, meaning that layoffs are a real possibility.

Under quality-blind policies — sometimes called “last-in, first-out” — schools are mandated to lay off the least senior teachers first. This hurts students by depriving them of excellent teachers who are forced to leave simply because they have not taught as long as others.

Teachers want their job performance considered, according to a TNTP survey.

Putting talented teachers in every school will require a coordinated strategy concludes a new Carnegie report.

The report outlines a number of strategies for preparing teachers better. They include holding teaching colleges accountable for their graduates’ performance and encouraging them to implement urban residency programs and alternative certification processes; hiring top-level graduates; and offering incentives for such graduates to work in schools where they are needed most. The report also recommends supporting teachers and principals with ongoing, on-the-job professional development; using data to assess teacher effectiveness more accurately; and, based on comprehensive, performance-based evaluations, retaining only the best teachers.

“The least effective teachers and principals are all too often found in high-poverty, high-minority, and high-immigrant schools,” said report author Talia Milgrom-Elcott.

Why do we treat newer teachers so badly? asks Sara Mead.

RIF tiff: Who gets fired?

The boss doesn’t know best, writes Samuel Culbert in a New York Times op-ed. Performance reviews are “subjective evaluations that measure how ‘comfortable’ a boss is with an employee, not how much an employee contributes to overall results.”

So how should teachers be laid off when districts are forced to reduce staff? Flypaper asks.

. . . until stronger teacher evaluation systems are in place, it seems that our education system faces two stark choices: make lay-off decisions based on seniority, or trust administrators to pick and choose the teachers to fire. Which option do you think carries greater risks?

Fordham staffers weigh in and others leave their opinions in the comments. I’d like to trust principals to choose their teaching staffs, but I worry about the strong incentives to dump the top-scale teachers, including those who are competent, in favor of young teachers who may not be quite as good but are much, much cheaper.