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Great Schools Compact asks Gates Foundation for $2.5 million

By Benjamin Herold on Aug 1, 2012 06:47 PM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

City Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr chairs the Great Schools Compact committee.

 

By Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

Seeking to create a “pipeline” of principals and teachers who are better equipped to deal with the real-world challenges found in Philadelphia’s toughest schools, city education leaders submitted a three-year, $2.5 million grant proposal this week to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The request is the culmination of several months of work by the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact, a coalition representing more than 300 District, charter, and Catholic schools that has jointly pledged to eliminate 50,000 “low-performing seats” over the next five years.

“We have different types of schools in this city. We can either aggressively move to have them work together, or we can pretend [the diversity] doesn’t exist and hope everything turns out all right in the end,” said Lori Shorr, the city’s chief education officer and the chair of the committee overseeing the Great Schools Compact’s work.

Philadelphia is one of eight finalists across the country competing for more than $40 million in grants and related investments that the Gates Foundation plans to award for district-charter collaborations. The compact’s 16-page proposal to the foundation outlines three major initiatives designed to increase “schools’ access to the talent, resources, and tools they need in order to improve their capacity to prepare students for college and work.” 

  • The Philadelphia School Partnership would help establish – and possibly run – an “urban leadership residency program” that would eventually train and certify up to 50 prospective principals a year;
  • Mastery Charter Schools would expand its existing teacher coaching and induction program, with the District pledging to have all its teacher coaches participate; and
  • The District, charters, and Archdiocese would pool resources to develop new benchmark tests aligned with new Common Core state standards.

Mastery CEO Scott Gordon said that his organization, now the city’s third-largest provider by student enrollment, would look to both give and receive if the Philadelphia compact is awarded Gates funding. Gordon described it as the sign of a “new day” in cross-sector collaboration among city schools.

“The walls that separated the District from charters from the Archdiocese are disappearing,” he said.

Both Mastery and the District have already expressed interest in having principal candidates participate in a new residency program, which would be modeled after similar efforts in New York, Chicago and other cities.

The Philadelphia School Partnership, which has been facilitating the compact, would either run the residency program itself or engage an external partner, such as New York-based New Leaders for New Schools, to do so. An initial group of 12-15 principal candidates would begin the residency program next summer.

The focus would be on preparing, and eventually certifying, principals capable of serving in Philadelphia’s “turnaround schools” – low-performing schools that are targeted for intervention by either a District team or an outside charter operator as part of the Renaissance Schools initiative.

“We plan on continuing to do turnarounds, so building [human] capacity at this juncture is very important,” said the city’s Shorr.

Principal candidates who participate in the residency would receive intensive training in leadership and management skills. While serving as assistant principals for a year, they would get hands-on experience with concrete tasks like developing a school budget, designing and implementing an Individualized Education Plan for a special-needs student, and evaluating teachers.

“Rather than tests and papers, participants will have crucible experiences in their field work,” the proposal reads.

“The city is rich in graduate education schools, but some school operators report that candidates from these schools’ leadership programs are not well-prepared for the challenges of urban schools.”

That real-world emphasis is also a major part of Mastery’s Teacher Effectiveness Institute, an existing “train-the-trainers” effort already funded by the Gates Foundation that would be scaled up if the compact received new money.

Teachers who go through traditional colleges of education tend to get “great conceptual knowledge and understanding,” Gordon said, but they often lack the “hands-on skills and strategies that [they] need every day.”

Well over a dozen local and national charter operators have taken part in Mastery’s program, as have representatives from school districts including Baltimore, Detroit, and New York. The District has already indicated that it will send all of its instructional coaches through the three-day institute. 

“We have focused for the last six years on teacher quality,” Gordon said.  “Why wouldn’t [the Philadelphia compact participants] take advantage of that work?”

Gordon stressed, though, that Mastery’s teacher training model is “not intended to be the solution for every single teacher” in the city, nor is it the only resource that will be made available to Mastery’s own teachers.

“There is other great work being done elsewhere,” he said. “Mastery is going to take advantage of that.”

The final piece of work that the grant request sought to fund from a possible Gates Foundation grant is supporting city schools’ efforts to implement more rigorous state standards, part of a national effort known as the “Common Core.” The goal is to develop a list of questions that can be used on benchmark tests beginning next fall – and to save school providers’ money by allowing them to pool resources.

“Instead of having the Archdiocese, the District, and individual charters [each] purchase [test] questions, we would purchase them together,” explained Shorr.

The District has already issued a Request for Proposals to get that effort underway, she said.

The Gates Foundation is expected to announce the grant winners in October or November of this year.

The compact's request represents a dramatic scaling-back of the group's original proposal to the foundation, a copy of which was obtained by the Notebook/NewsWorks  through a request made under state Right to Know law.

In that proposal, the compact requested $7 million and outlined a dozen major initiatives, including big-ticket items like creating a universal application system that would cover every District and charter school in the city; making vacant District facilities more accessible to charter operators; and overhauling the District’s Office of Charter Schools.

Shorr said those efforts are still ongoing, but they were not things the Gates Foundation expressed interest in supporting.

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Comments (60)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 8:29 pm

Mastery Charter schools have a particular philosophy of education that focuses heavily on test prep. If SDP's priority is that high test scores are the only measure of student (and teacher) success, than Mastery is a perfect fit and 1) there will be no innovative graduates of SDP going in to fields like science and technology that require innovation/creativity and 2) if I, as a teacher, am forced to be trained in the Mastery model, I will resign from the district and try to find one that greater fits my philosophy of education, teaching, learning and curriculum.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 7:53 am

I wish someone would do an in depth investigation of how Mastery "counsels out" so many of their under performing students, who then end up in the School District schools. Mastery is a dangerous place to send a mediocre student,

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 7:20 am

Everybody knows the truth about barriers and the FACT that charters are NOT permitted by law to set up those barriers but it continues. WHY??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 8:34 pm

Monkey see, monkey do, monkey see, monkey.........

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 9:39 pm

I am in an ESY Program and the brand new Principal, today, on her first day killed her credibility in less than 15 seconds. Before she even greeted the room full of people and told us her name, she warned the entire room to teach from "bell to bell" and implied that she saw lots of things she didn't like. The room was silent with shock, stunning shock. Her name is Shaunelle Taylor, a retread from 440 of some sort. My point is this woman is something of a microcosm of the poor, rampant leadership that permeates the district and many of its principals. Ms.Taylor went out of her way to alienate an entire room of people who will do anything on earth for the low incidence kids and most have for 30 years. There has to be a better way of training these folks. I sat in the back of the room and shook my head in bewilderment at the carnage she delivered to herself.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:11 pm

Taylor was in the Northwest region - a friend of Nixon's. It is the bully style of Ackerman via Nixon.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:25 pm

Yes, she was and is a classic no-nothing, same as the rest, insecure, pretentious, rude, ignorant etc. Yes, just the kind of person whom the district needs more of--buffoons.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:19 pm

Sorry---I meant Know nothing. My bad.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 1, 2012 10:57 pm

I don't know how we can address the issue of administrative contempt of teachers, which runs rampant among the least able administrators. Perhaps principals should be required to teach one period a day. It might keep them more in touch with reality. My experience has been that some of the weakest teachers I've worked with have gotten principal certificates so that they could escape the classroom. When they do so, they re-imagine their past performance and embrace whatever nonsense will keep them from having to face kids. I think often of an old Dick Van Dyke show, in which he is hypnotized to salute garbage cans, and that image flashes through my mind more often than I'd like. You have my sympathy.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:59 pm

Joan--I think insecurity and shame are the base feelings these folks have about themselves so they have to attack you before you attack them. Of course, clear thinking people are not after them in the real world but in their minds, people are all about shaming them further. Yes, I just wanted her to stop talking because it was hard to watch--like rabbits being tortured. In any case, she killed the opportunity to be considered a serious person and did it quickly and likely, by design.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 2, 2012 8:25 pm

I went to a Catholic high school on the West Coast, one of the best schools in the state in which I spent my childhood. All of the administrators--principal, vice principals, and school counselors, among others--had to teach at least 1 class. Also, the principal and vice principals were all teachers prior to being administrators.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 5:52 am

Administrators should teach a class a day - that would help them understand what is involved in lesson planning, assessments, parental contact, etc. Granted, they have power a teacher doesn't have so students are more likely to comply. In Philadelphia, many administrators are not good teachers. We have many elementary certified teachers who become high school administrators - they can't teach high school courses. We have many administrators whose claim to fame is being a bully - it isn't their ability to work with students.

I've never had an administrator in more than 2 decade in Philadelphia who could or would teach. They could give no suggestions on curriculum. So much for instructional leader!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 8:15 am

I agree--I know more than 20 current administrators who as teachers, were horrible at best. NONE of them could even remotely control even 1 kid less than a class. How easily we forget !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 7:00 am

Agree!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 10:44 pm

She was also a notorious bully at West Philly H.S. ---Her reputation continues to precede her.......

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 3, 2012 10:56 pm

Ms. Taylor's 2nd. day of ESY was no better than her first though she at least tried to be more human. She kept interrupting people and managed to say the same thing about 10 times--that she had high expectations and would be everywhere. Again, give the attitude a rest. Nobody in the room was 22 years old and nobody was threatening her authority. A bully is a bully, I guess but lots of folks, were getting less than happy with 2 straight days of semi threats or street or whatever that silliness is, both unnecessary and counterproductive. Yes, I agree the folks at Wright are in for a very unproductive and unpleasant year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:40 pm

Thanks--I assumed as much. To be honest, I felt badly for her but she kept right on going for a good 3 minutes, talking nonsense and setting herself up for failure the whole time. As far as I could ascertain, she knew nobody in that room but had to go verbally postal on the crowd. Just a really dumb, amazingly, stunningly dumb move on her part. She's going to be the new Principal at Wright during the school year so Wright will be another ground zero failure for all to see and exploit.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 6:12 am

Sounds like LaGreta Brown. Good luck to the faculty of Wright this year!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 7:10 am

No, some silly person named Shanuelle Taylor. Same as they always were.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:54 pm

It won't change; they can't change because they
Don't know how. I've listened to that bell to bell
Crap for years now. Their solution is to beat the teachers
Into the ground and try to demoralize them even
Further. Another principal training program. More
Reinvention of the wheel. What happened to the other
Leadership program they ran out of 440? What was
It the clap program or something? Gates already
Turned them down once didn't they? That's why
The SRC has been rapidly turning them into charters.
That's the way Gates wants it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:22 pm

"The District, charters, and Archdiocese would pool resources to develop new benchmark tests aligned with new Common Core state standards."

Does this mean the District schools have to work those charters that are being investigated by the Feds?

Submitted by Stephen R. Flemming (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:30 am

No thanks Mastery! I choose to consult with the teachers at MASTERMAN! I like the idea of speaking with my colleagues at Hill-Freedman, Powel, Harrington, MYA, Leeds, DeBurgos, Cook-Wissahickon, John B. Kelly, among many many others! Colleagues with YEARS of experience and a wealth of knowledge and resources!! So, no thank you Mastery! We were here long before you came on the scene and we'll be here long after this latest set of educational experiments has come and gone, much like the open classrooms, whole language, Edison, now this!

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 2, 2012 8:27 am

I agree with my colleague and twitter friend, Mr. Flemming! I would much rather have time to meet, learn, and problem-solve with my colleagues who are "on the ground" at regular neighborhood public schools (and even some magnets) that have years of experiences and success with all kinds of students than with teachers at a test-prep school. Mastery's super-regimented, test prep approach is certainly not for everyone. Our students need to learn in an inquiry-based, collaborative process that allows them to think, problem-solve, and reach conclusions. Test prep does not allow this.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 3, 2012 10:26 pm

This will eventually turn full circle. Scott Gordon is a fraud of the first order and EVERYBODY who knows him, knows that. Talk about barriers for admittance and counseling out kids--what a racket they have---for now !!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 2, 2012 5:39 am

Sorry, with all due respect, I have to speak up at this point and ask the question that is the "essential question" of effective leadership and school governance. It is the question and theme that runs through my book which discusses the research on effective leadership and the law of school governance -- Whose School Is It? the Democratic Imperative for Our Schools.

Whose School District Is it?

What makes you, Mark Gleason and Scott Gordon, think that you are the experts on school leadership and who do each of you represent?

Just by the manner in which you are circumventing the SRC, the Sunshine Act and the "participative due process" requirement for decision-making in public organizations shows that you do not understand what are the best practices of leadership and school governance.

It shows a total disdain for and lack of collaboration with the true educators who dedicate their lives to the serving the children and our public schools. It shows a total disdain for the parents and the "public."

What you are doing is known under the law of fiduciary responsibilities as "self-dealing." You are serving your "privatization agenda" and not the interest of the school community of Philadelphia.

I would be the first one to argue that "leadership matters." So does "how we choose our leaders." So does "how we lead matter!"

You are usurping the authority of Dr. Hite who is our legitimate leader and the SRC itself. Dr. Hite should be developing our leadership training programs in collaboration with all of the educators of Philadelphia and all of the institutions of higher learning. He has already professed to his belief in "servant leadership." I assure you that such schools as the University of Pennsylvania have outstanding professors of leadership.

You are also circumventing the SRC who by law must put such initiatives out in the open for public comment and discourse before they are implemented.

What you guys are trying to do is impose your agenda on the people of Philadelphia in a totally undemocratic manner. You are acting as a "shadow governance" body and circumventing the mandatory public processes of public school governance.

I am more than supportive of 'Rethinking Schools" and how to govern them and lead them.

But you cannot escape "the democratic imperative for our schools."

Democracy is the "sine qua non" for effective leadership, effective governance and Greatness in our schools and public school systems.

And you can tell everybody -- Migliore said it!

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on August 2, 2012 7:59 am

These "reformers" are at best unaware and and worst oppositional to the concept of consent. Those with good ideas for "them" are a dangerous bunch.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:45 pm

Segregation 101 is all it is though it masquerades as choice. Making money on the backs of the kids while not giving a rat's ass about them.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 2, 2012 5:31 am

And let me be clear on this so you do not go ahead and perpetuate myths.

The Great Schools Compact and the Committee has no actual legal authority to represent or bind anyone. You were not empowered by law in any representative capacity. You were not elected by the parents of children in charter schools. You were not elected by the charter school boards of trustees.

In Pennsylvania, the Public School Code governs public schools. Under our School Code, all legal power and authority to do anything vests solely in our school boards. The school board of Philadelphia is the School Reform Commission.

They are the only people with actual legal authority to represent the people of Philadelphia, its children, its parents, its teachers, its administrators, and the school community of Philadelphia.

The SRC has the sole legal authority and responsibility to govern our public schools. The authority and responsibility to govern our schools, and act on the behalf of the public school community, can not be legally delegated to anyone or any committee.

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on August 2, 2012 6:59 am

Rich,

Where can I obtain a copy of your book?

Thanks,

Matt

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 2, 2012 7:53 am

It is being sold on Amazon but if you e-mail me at rich@democracyineducation.com, I will send you one for the discounted price of $20.00. That way we cut out Amazon's high costs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:42 am

Even though I'm not one yet, my graduate studies are preparing me quite well for the principalship. I fear that a short turnaround program will be missing the key elements of excellent leadership training. That is, combing practical experience with prolonged literature investigation and reflection. Uninformed people have said to me that you can't read about these things. Funny, the academic rigorous literature is not conjecture but based from case studies that are examined from multiple lenses which empowers readers to learn how to think through educations most difficult issues. A program like this needs real practitioners and academics coming together, this training program will probably only include the former. This would be a mistake. How do you teach people to question the interventions put in place today by federal and local officials if the people running the program are unequipped to do so? I thought I was well equipped to do so after my successful years of teaching in Phildaelphia. I was wrong. I had a strong foundation but my studies have proven to really tool me up with language and very inclusiveanalytjcal frameworks that will allow me and others around me to grow as educators. We don't want principals that can find technical ways to adapt, we want principals that can provide visionary leadership and whom are quite capable of being the Lead educator of their buildings during these very dark times in education.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:35 am

Don’t blame Shaunelle. The district hasn’t had a training or mentor program since Ackerman abolished it. Since her reign we just throw in a soldier and lop off heads if they fail and yell “Next”! The district also has a bad habit of training teachers before administrators affecting their leadership ability and eroding teacher confidence in them. Additionally, any “chores” the big guys no longer want to do they give to principals drowning them in paperwork.

The solution is not another principal training program for a small number of individuals. If the compact had done their homework they would know that this has already been done in the form of the “ALPS program. Results indicated that there was not a significant difference in principal performance.

A few years back a Regional Superintendent in West Philadelphia had it right? There was a strong focus on “educational leadership”. She identified a few goals, trained principals on those expectations and expected that principals would do turn around professional development. When she trained coaches, she told us our job was to “assist” the principal not lead the training. I remember getting an email (sent to every teacher in the district) telling them to expect the professional development from the principal and if they didn’t get it to let her know. She also had a district wide professional development on the same goals where teachers were trained in grade groups.

Twenty schools made AYP that year. Granted it was by growth factor but most hadn’t made it by any factor before then. She believed in servant leadership too. Servant leaders get spit out by the machine.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:10 am

Why are we hiring so many principals that aren't prepared to be principals?

Do we really pay $130k+ to whatever warm body is willing to show up? A lot of them aren't even certified!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:24 am

There was a time in this city that different organizations supported and cultivated teachers who wanted to be administrators and continued that support after they were hired. Those supports are not there now.

I think knowing that you may possibly be guillotined has deterred anyone that wants to keep their head.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 10:21 am

Those organizations were often ethnic based affiliations. It limited who could become principals. Now, the principals often have affiliations - sororities, fraternities, alumnus, etc. I don't think either system works.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 11:07 am

True but they provided a non judgmental place to ask questions and get support. What is there now?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:15 am

Your comment is incorrect! I'm no fan of the quee, nowever, there were at least two programs for Principal LEadership sponsored by the district. One waas Philadelphia High School Leadership project co-sponsored with Lehigh and the other was internally run by Cassandra Ruffin. Shaunelle came through the program with Ruffin!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 10:17 am

There has been no district program in recent years that allowed potential leaders an internship in schools. The ALPS program was a year long program where potential candidates were paid a salary during their internship to work in a school under the guidance of a principal . Prior to ALPs the district had its own program where potential candidates received about a half year salaried training .

Submitted by Barbara (not verified) on August 4, 2012 5:00 pm

All I know is that common sense should tell you NOT to offend a room full of people whom you have never seen before. Shockingly stupid and counterproductive to say the least. IF her goal was to acquaint herself with the folks, she failed. IF, however, she wanted to alienate the room, she did fine. Ms. Shaunelle Taylor is a farce if that 3 minutes is a microcosm of how she expects to "lead." Nobody in the room was intimidated but rather dismissed her as a buffoon. Virtually everybody there was a veteran teacher, CA etc. who just felt badly for her and wanted Ms. Taylor to stop talking, making a complete fool of herself. Training wasn't the issue with her. It was a lack of class, professionalism and common sense.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 8, 2012 7:04 pm

Ms. Taylor did not come through the program with Ms. Ruffin. She did go through any leadership program.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 4, 2012 6:29 am

I believe you refer to Janet Samuels, now the superintendent at Norristown. She was a class act, respectful of teachers and respected by them. I don't know that she fits in with the anti-teacher know-nothings who dominate in education funding circles.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:20 am

Rich,

You nailed it this time. Is there ONE voice from a teacher, parent or student anywhere? You and I, as regular attenders of SRC meetings, know that they signed that Gates mess with no debate and no chance for the public to even know what was going on, let alone weigh in on it.

If you are a Notebook reader you should be at that August 16 SRC meeting. Write down your comments, sign up to speak the day before, and let them know that we will not let them roll over us without a serious fight.

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:18 pm

Our principal did not observe ANY teacher this year. Two teachers asked for an observation and after missing the dates a few times, he finally did. But he did no formal observations of any new teachers, let alone old. We came at the end of the year to sign a "Satisfactory" evaluation. Never heard a words about our "Professional Development Plan". It was a joke.

He also would talk negatively about specific teachers in front of other teachers. It was VERY uncomfortable. He allowed his closest allies (designated teachers), keys to the building and even one of the allie's HUSBAND a key. They threw away tons of new books, just right into the dumpster. One of his allies threw away all the special ed files, not knowing what they were, but wanting to rid the school of all the "clutter". It was just a joke, and they are all returning again this year. The few communications we had on paper were full of grammatical and spelling errors. We were told of things minutes before they happened. We had two fire drills all year....just so many things that you just have to wonder what they are thinking?!! This is leadership?

And they blame the teachers!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 2:29 pm

Two fire drills a year?

I have worked at 8 different elementary schools, and that is the average number of fire drills per year. Are there actually schools that have more???

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 3:31 pm

You got whole minutes of notice! Lucky!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 7:55 am

Name that school !

Submitted by Dina (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:15 pm

"New Leaders" is connected to TFA. How does an organization that puts teachers in schools for two years get to have such a huge say in how we educate and support teachers? This is not a comment on the wonderful young people I have known who have taught and many who continue to teach who came through TFA. But it IS a comment on the corporate model of TFA. Mastery Charter does, indeed, believe in and practice real coaching and support for teachers, there are some terrific people doing this, and I respect that. But some of this support includes the following: Insisting on every teacher using "I do - we do- you do" as a model for every lesson, every period. How does this engage thoughtful and smart people in making meaningful decisions about their children and their content? Is teaching a "formula?" Furthermore, they use strategies such as putting "buzzers" on teachers that go off at certain times to "remind" them to do certain things in the classroom. What? Are teachers trained dogs? Would any (and do any) of the administrators send their children to schools with such practices? And if I hear the response "these" kids need this - I will refer them to Chris Lehman's blog post on educational colonialism (http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2012/07/chris-lehmann-on-educational-co...).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 2:39 pm

TFA is already climbing the ladder in the SDP. They teach a few years and want to be administrators. This is not unique to TFA but their "we're the best and brightest" mantra feeds the frenzy. Those of us with many years of proven classroom experience are rated by people who either have little teaching experience or failed at teaching.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 3:57 pm

It's that attitude about thinking you will be superman, you will do it better than anyone, you will change the world. As a traditional first-year a few years ago, I was constantly looking around me for advice from more experienced teachers, for feedback on how to better my practice. TFA seems to train new teachers to look for "what not to do" cases and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that they are better than most other teachers because they look for the bad.

I have heard stories about the incoming crop of Teaching Fellows, and oh boy, are we in for it. It really has become a program for people who can't find employment anywhere else.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:52 pm

So this is what I understand from the articles/comments posted this week:
1) District principals and teachers need more education/training throughout their careers (as do we all).
2) The district is currently not providing this.
3) Mastery will get private money to try to fill this gap even though...
4) Charter-school teachers will not be subject to the new PA measures of teacher effectiveness that district teachers will be (so we don't know -- even by reform standards -- whether Mastery teachers are effective), AND
5) We also don't really know how good their schools are (even on the limited measure of the PSSA) because they are selecting students.
Anything else?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 3, 2012 10:59 pm

If Mastery does receive the Gates Foundation grant, I have a few comments and questions about what will happen. A principal residency program is a great program to have. Mastery already has a residency program in place for new school leaders, which I assume they are able to fund with private funds. It would be fantastic if the District had the money to do the same type of program.

Scott Gordon comments that “Teachers who go through traditional colleges of education tend to get “great conceptual knowledge and understanding,” Gordon said, but they often lack the “hands-on skills and strategies that [they] need every day.”

Mr. Gordon is right in that education programs don’t always teach the hands-on skills and strategies. However, the programs are not supposed to equip the students with all of the skills. Education programs provide the FOUNDATION. It is difficult for programs to teach all of the hands-on skills and strategies when the practices and resources in schools vary widely among districts and settings (public, charter, private, parochial). New teachers will face different issues based on where they teach and what kinds of students they teach (general ed, special ed, ELL). Teacher education courses are supposed to provide the background knowledge and foundation for teachers: learning how to lesson plan, pedagogical issues, cultural issues in the schools (e.g., addressing diversity issues and teaching about controversial topics), understanding the history and reason for schools, understanding the various innovations that have taken place in education over the decades, and so on. In addition, the education courses provide a venue for the students to discuss and learn from each other. The courses include requirements to do research in order to become familiar with reading the literature which contains information about evidence based practices. Education courses and the work they entail prepare students to THINK about issues pertaining to education and schooling.

The practical component—the hands-on skills and knowledge—comes from field experiences and student teaching. I have learned a great deal from my field experiences, but I also went above and beyond, taking copious notes and going the extra mile to make sure that when I was working with students and taking them out of class, they were receiving good enrichment. A big problem I see is that with programs for graduate students, most of the graduate students are working and/or have families. They often do not have the time or energy to devote to their studies and really benefit 100% from their courses. They put in the work to do what they have to do and no more. Few people want to stay the full time during class. Most grad students love when classes end early. Also, some classes are moving to online and hybrid (online and campus) formats. What is problematic about these formats is that discussions take place online instead of in person. However, on the job, where much of the learning and reflection takes place, collaboration will take place primarily in person.

The field experience requirements for graduate students are not as strict as for undergraduates. PDE sets these requirements. Student teaching is the capstone experience, giving students hands-on experience. The practical components of education programs—field experiences and student teaching—are supposed to be useful for gaining the more practical knowledge that is useful day to day in the classroom. Based on PDE’s requirements for courses, especially new requirements starting this year and next year, the classes are supposed to incorporate various assignments which help students gain hands on experiences. However, some instructors (and many of the instructors of graduate courses are adjuncts) will cut out assignments or modify them due to snow days, the fact that grad students are often very busy, the instructor thinks an assignment is frivolous or not practical, and so on. PDE is streamlining the requirements for courses, to the point that syllabi are now standardized, not even containing the information for the specific instructor. The syllabus has information about all of the competencies and goals of the courses. The syllabi are very long. The new syllabi are good in the sense that students understand the expectations. However, it doesn’t prevent instructors from making changes.

With any job, the day to day knowledge and skills are often learned on the job. Teaching is no different in this respect. The problem is that with teaching, new teachers are thrown into the ring and given the same expectations and pressures as new teachers. In addition, there isn’t money in some districts to provide adequate mentoring for new teachers. Support systems for new teachers are probably cut when budgets are cut. Teacher mentoring systems should not need private funding—these are essential for developing good teachers. The same goes for principals and other administrators. Mentoring programs are essential for them as well.

So, my overall point is that when it comes to the day-to-day skills (e.g., classroom management, lesson planning, pedagogy), there is some preparation in teacher education programs. However, because practices vary so widely among school districts, teachers have to learn the specifics of hands-on skills during student teaching and their first teaching job. The most important part of the teacher education program—in my view—is teaching education students to THINK and be able to understand and make decisions about evidence-based practices, differentiating instruction, complying with special education laws, and knowing what to do to maximize the education for each individual student. Education, more so than training, provides the foundation for the flexibility necessary to make sound decisions. Training helps, but is no substitute for education. Teacher education should entail both a rigorous education program to build a foundation combined with training and mentoring programs to help ne teachers learn the ropes of the day-to-day skills for teaching.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 3, 2012 10:03 pm

Work one day in a Philly School and get back to us.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 5:07 am

Mastery and KIPP have a robotic approach to teacher and administrator "training." They assume a one size fits all. The push for Mastery is coming from Nowak - William Penn Foundation.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 2:13 pm

Yes -- someone in second-level leadership at Mastery told me that their approach to teacher development relies on firing teachers immediately if they don't work out.
No reputable industry uses dismissal as its primary method of development since recruitement and hiring are so expensive. A perfect case of these reformers picking and choosing what they want to learn from the private sector.

Of course, I am not surprised that Shorr, Gleason, and Nowak bought into this, as not one of them has taught a day in any school anywhere.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 2:58 pm

Your post was GREAT until you said that they haven't taught a day. They have NO INTEREST in education or what's good for kids. Their only interest is money. Your comment gives them some credibility that they don't even remotely deserve. Please don't go there even by accident.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 4, 2012 7:11 am

Why haven't districts like Lower Merion sought out Mastery's expertise? They could afford to pay handsomely for such guidance. Oh, right...their parents wouldn't go for it...their teachers wouldn't go for it...their administrators wouldn't go for it. They must expect value for their dollar. I'd be thrilled to have highly capable staff development at all levels of the SDP, but it's not going to come from Mastery. Professional development takes time--and money. It doesn't work when it bullies or dictates. It's got to "develop" talent, which is not a one-and-done event. The reality is that most of what passes as PD beats us down, ignores our experience, and sends us on our way at the end resentful and exhausted and no better informed...but at least we get those Act 48 credits.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 4, 2012 1:05 pm

Joan,

It's a good question. I had an instructor who teaches in LMSD. They have a lot of time and resources for collaboration among special education providers, e.g. teachers, therapists, and psychologists. The time and resources are not available in the SDP.

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 7:59 am

Today the principals start meeting in the SDP. I assume there will be a report on the 2012 PSSA scores. I've heard only 15 schools made AYP. Will this information be made public? Will we know how many charters? (Remember, only a few charters had to test under the same regulations last year as Philly public schools.) Will this "data' be the basis for the 40 schools to close in 2013 and the other 25 to close by 2017? What about charters? Will any close?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 9:35 am

Taking bets now on how many of those 15 schools were Charters. Derspite all the reports to the contrary, I am guessing the "Fuzzy math" will magically show that almost all those 15 were Charters, with the remaining being Magnet schools.

Pennsylvania Department of Ed. generally makes AYP, PSSA and School Report cards public around the 2nd week of August each year. My guess is that they will be coming out (to the public) sometime this week after today's Principal's meeting

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