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Coalition wants teacher reforms, but opposes any pay cuts

By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 10, 2013 07:20 PM
Photo: Dale Mezzacappa

Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, speaks at a press conference announcing a new coalition that seeks major changes to the teachers' contract.

A coalition of advocacy groups wants groundbreaking changes in the Philadelphia  teachers' contract -- including the effective end of seniority privileges -- but is also urging the School Reform Commission to take off the table its plan for deep salary and benefit concessions.

Saying that such cuts would be demoralizing, the groups want the SRC to ask the city and the state to cough up even more than $180 million in additional funds.

"The city and the state must step up to the plate in even bigger ways than have been asked for by the School District," said Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), at a press conference kicking off the groups' campaign. "We're very clear: The teacher pay cuts that have been proposed by the SRC are harsh, and we believe they should be avoided."

To eliminate a structural deficit in the neigborhood of $300 million, the SRC is seeking to slash labor costs by 10 percent, or about $133 million, while asking for $120 million in additional funds from the state and $60 million from the city.

But even if a contract reaches agreement on pay and benefits, it won't be successful if it doesn't include "a set of reforms in teacher work practices that will support high school achievement," Cooper said.

Among the changes sought by the coalition is full site-selection, meaning that principals and leadership teams in schools would fill all vacancies after interviewing teachers. Full site-selection is now in place at about 100 schools labeled by the District as low-performing. But at most District schools, seniority policies in the contract give teachers the right to transfer into positions in some cases. Seniority still governs in the cases of layoffs or job eliminations in schools due to lower enrollment.

The coalition also wants to end the practice of automatic raises for additional degrees or certifications, unless "research demonstrates that the degree correlates to gains in student achievement."

Among the management practices that it wants changed are better principal development and evaluation and the removal of "ineffective principals from academic leadership."  It also wants better training for principals so they can better evaluate and support their teachers.

"We call on the District to overhaul how it recruits, how it hires, how it orients and supports new teachers, and how it helps existing teachers improve their practice," Cooper said. "The changes we are asking for are long overdue."

At the same time, it also wants the SRC to abandon its plan to eliminate class-size limits in the contract, but seek flexibility to support educational practices such as "blended learning," in which larger groups of students work individually on computers with adult supervision.

The District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers are in the midst of negotiations, which started off with a bang when the SRC's opening gambit of deep concessions was leaked to the press.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that the District welcomed the coalition's involvement and the airing of important issues. Similarly, PFT president Jerry Jordan said that "we respect and value their opinions. They clearly are concerned about public education in the city." Both said that the two sides were meeting regularly; the PFT contract expires at the end of August.

Besides PCCY, the coalition includes United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, ASPIRA, Congreso, Education Voters PA, the Urban League of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Education Fund. It has set up a website: EffectiveTeachingPhilly.org

 

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Comments (119)

Submitted by Tymir (not verified) on April 10, 2013 7:02 pm
Since when are there raises for additional certifications? United Way - didn't they give money to some charter organization or the Broad Foundation? I wonder who they will reference in regards to "research demonstrates that the degree correlates to gains in student achievement."
Submitted by tom-104 on April 10, 2013 8:42 pm
United Way served as the financial conduit for the private donors who brought us the Boston Consulting Group. United Way: BCG funding arrangement messy, but no conspiracy http://thenotebook.org/blog/124997/united-way-bcg-funding-arrangement-me... ASPIRA is a charter management company. http://www.aspira.org/en/aspira-pennsylvania The Philadelphia Education Fund Mission: http://www.philaedfund.org/about-us/mission Board of Directors: http://www.philaedfund.org/about-us/board-directors
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 10, 2013 9:51 pm
Tom, In all fairness, if you are going to cite 3 organizations, then cite all 6 that are sponsoring the Coalition for Effective Teaching. Go to the website at http://effectiveteachingphilly.org/what-we-want. The proposal is quite reasonable. They don't propose merit pay or value-added evaluation for teachers. The proposal puts a lot of emphasis on developing principals. What the Coalition for Effective Teaching wants is very reasonable. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 5:32 am
Proposing to eliminate collective bargaining isn't reasonable at all. We're not going backwards.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 2:41 pm
TYVM for the right answer. Seems lsike everybody has a finger in the pot these days.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 12, 2013 3:14 pm
On their webpage, there is nothing about eliminating collective bargaining. After reading comments on this site, I went back and reread the "What We Want" page. Again, most of the proposals sound reasonable. Reforms to the Teachers and Principals Union Contracts Points 1 and 4 are sound proposals. Points 2 and 3 seem to be a sticking point for many people making comments. I can't disagree with them because I don't have requisite experience. Effective Principals All good points Effective Teachers The first 2 points sound good. What does the third point about multiple measures mean? What percentage is test-score based? Teachers and Students Must be Safe All good points The Teacher Pipeline What does "rebuild its teacher pipeline from the ground up using expert organizations that have a proven track record of designing and implementing" mean? What are the expert organizations? Do these organizations include other school districts? The first bullet point is iffy because what does diverse backgrounds mean? Does this mean TFA or teaching fellows or race/ethnicity and sex. The last 3 bullet points are good practices, focusing on teacher development. Education Voters PA has a strong record of supporting public education. I would be interested in where the funding is coming from for the Coalition for Effective Teaching. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 6:27 am
EGS- Open your eyes. Congresso took a deal to be the face of this corporate sponsored proposal. Propoganda 101.
Submitted by Annony (not verified) on April 11, 2013 3:44 am
Congresso founded and also runs at least one charter - Pan American - http://panamericanacademy.org/. They have a brand new building. Last year, when Sheppard was threatened with closure - Pan American / Congresso was at the school recruiting students. The Urban League is very corporate / anti-union.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 10, 2013 9:19 pm
There is research showing that students whose teachers have a degree in math have higher achievement (test scores). I can't locate the studies at the moment, but I will try to find a couple. Education Grad Student
Submitted by Tymir (not verified) on April 11, 2013 7:04 am
Ah, okay. The math cert makes sense.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:56 pm
To obtain any additional certification is a rigorous process and additional compensation should be for all. How dare people even attempt to value one certification over another. It just utter ridiculousness that they even proposed this.
Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:43 pm
I agree. This group, and other groups like this really only are around to serve the interests of Big Business. They want to make the teaching profession something you do for a few years right out of college (TFA for example) and then move on. In their book, there wouldn't be anybody in the teaching profession with more than three of four years experience. Would they fire people after five years? Nah. Not really, but if the teaching pay scale stopped at say $50,000, many people would leave. Even more than what occurs now. I don't trust this "Coalition". Seems like some right-wing front if you ask me.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2013 9:55 pm
Senior career teacher requires more than one cert.
Submitted by linda (not verified) on April 11, 2013 5:34 pm
Unless you are a music/art or physed...we count [at present anyway] as having a dual cert [we can teach k-12] with only one subject. Linda K.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:01 am
Additional certifications equals more graduate credits so in essence you do get raises for multiple certs as you should.
Submitted by Tymir (not verified) on April 11, 2013 7:45 am
I understand that. But a person can get more graduate credits without receiving additional certs. I wonder which certs, besides, math and science, will be the money makers.
Submitted by DONE and FED UP! (not verified) on April 12, 2013 3:08 pm
Why should teachers get raises after additional certifications? Because. 1. Because the School District does not pay for any school requirements outside of the training provided by the school. 2. Because they advertise for it, and lie about funds to pay for extra continuing ed. 3. Because teachers have to pay for this continuing ed by themselves on top of all of their other expenses (school supplies that not all parents send in, school supplies, their own expenses, and health expenses) 4.Because the more certifications a teacher has the more experience they have and qualified they are to TEACH YOUR CHILD. 5. ANY QUESTIONS?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2013 1:52 pm
If the SRC closes Beeber after that tragedy at Overbrook, the entire city of Phila. even the charter fakes, should raise holy hell-----seriously. Even they hopefully have enough class, grace and dignity to recognize how wrong that would be.
Submitted by Anon (not verified) on April 14, 2013 1:01 pm
Sadly, I think you overestimate the SRC. They are cold and DO NOT CARE. Have you watched Pedro, Wendell, and Feather during meetings? They are not nice people.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2013 3:08 pm
The tragedy was tragic. But it was an hour after school was dismissed in the park across from the school. It could just have easily been a student walking home from Beeber (or any other middle school) that got caught in the crossfire. It's an incredibly tragedy, but I don't see how it should impact making OHS 7-12. The issue here is why are 20- and 18-year olds in Philly shooting at each other. I'm not sure grades 7-12 at Overbrook is a good idea, but making a decision due to violence in the park across the street wouldn't make much sense. (And for what it's worth, I taught in a neighborhood school and my friends who taught in middle schools have much more severe stories of violence/harassment in the building. Many of the really hardcore troublemakers never even show up to high school, and are also more likely to stop attending after a suspension or two (unlike in 8th grade, when they generally will stay enrolled and return to the school). There is also somwhat higher security in high schools (metal detectors, etc.). Those things combine such that a high school building (at least inside) is actually probably safer than a middle school, at least when it comes to weapons and chronic violent behavior.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 14, 2013 4:36 pm
This is another case of feelings taking the place of facts. EVERY checklist and evaluation clearly shows that there is much more violence in high schools than middle schools in the USA. It's not even close. Sending Beeber students to Overbrook is a mistake for LOTS of reasons but this tragedy didn't happen 2 miles from Overbrook but rather across the street from the school. Yes, sending 11 and 12 year olds to a setting for young adults is a bad idea all by itself. The truth is what it is. Having said that, I would also not be shocked if the SRC sent Beeber kids to Overbrook anyway NOT because they agree with you--although they may say that--but rather because they simply don't care about the kids and are following the dictates of slithering types far above themselves.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 10, 2013 8:57 pm
Does "full site selection" include a "site slection process for principals" where the school community chooses its principals through an inclusive process? How we choose our principals is an issue which has been long overdue for full scrutiny, public debate and Reform. So is how we remove ineffective principals. Prior to the state takeover of our schools, prospective principals and AP's had to go through what was called the "site selection process for principals" before we were appointed. Leadership Matters. "How we choose our leaders" Matters, also. It matters so very much.
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on April 11, 2013 9:03 am
It is supposed to, but of course the district only sends the applications to the school of those they want interviewed and usually the one they want named as principal is the best of what they send, not necessarily good.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 11, 2013 10:08 am
No, of course they play games because that is the administrative culture of the school district which has been allowed to fester for the last ten years. There needs to be established an open, transparent, and inclusive process for the selection of our principals and AP's which fully includes the school community. The SRC needs to hold a public discussion on "the principal selection process" and develop an open, inclusive and ultimately democratic process for the choosing of our principals. That process needs to be written as an SRC policy and enforced diligently. All open principal positiions should be advertised publcly and all qualified people should be openly invited to apply. The most important decision which affects the quality of a school is the choosing of its principals.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 14, 2013 5:11 pm
Rich, Have you presented your ideas about the principal selection process to the SRC and Dr. Hite? Has anyone else? What kind of principal selection process takes place in well-functioning districts in this area? How are principals in the best suburban districts selected? EGS
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 14, 2013 8:29 pm
EGS, you always ask provocative and pertinent questions which draw me right in. Sometimes with a big smile and a sparkle in my eye. The short answer is that I have not recently addressed this SRC about the best practices in principal selection processes. But I assure you that the SRC knows very well of my book and my advocacy for inclusive, democratic processes for choosing our leaders. The "well functioning" districts in the area all have very open and inclusive public processes for selecting their principals. Most of the suburban school boards would not dream of not including parents, teachers and community members in the process. I interviewed a few times in suburban districts for both principal and AP positions. In the Penncrest School District, I had to go through two selection teams of parents, teachers, students and community members, before my name was even given to the school board. In Bensalem, my interview for the principalship was done by the president of the school board, the superintendent, parent representatives, several teachers, and a student representative. They were very collegial about it and I was very impressed. My other experiences were similar.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 15, 2013 12:40 am
Rich, The processes for principal and assistant principal selection in the Bensalem and Penncrest SDs are how principal selection should happen. My follow up questions are: (a) Has principal selection ever happened in this way in Philly, and for how long was this process in place? (b) Can this process happen again in the SDP? (c) Have any charter schools adopted this kind of selection process for administrators? EGS
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 15, 2013 7:39 am
The answer is yes. Prior to the takeover of our district by our state, and the imposition of Paul Vallas, almost every principal had to go through the "site selection process" for principals. We had to go through the district's Leadership in Education Apprentice Design (LEAD) principal's training and intern program. We had to serve as an Apprentice principal for almost a year under the guidance of exemplary mentor principals. We were then put into the "Pool of Eligibles." Once in the pool of eligibles, we had to interview with each school's site selection team before we were appointed. That is how I got to be the AP at Furness. Their site selection team chose me. Before they chose me, they checked out my history at Uni and talked to teachers there. The chemistry between their leadership team and me was evident right from the start. As my favorite researchers on leadership, Kouzes and Posner, said so well, "Effective leadership is a chemistry between people." The process did not always work perfectly because many higher ups still played their games with it and tried to get their friends chosen anyway. But it sure was better than what Vallas et al imposed upon the district. In the last decade it has most often been, "Whose friend are we putting in today?"
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2013 8:33 pm
Rich: I sat on the Principal Selection Committee of my school a few years back and the District gave us two individuals to interview. . .then promptly totally ignored us and named (through the press) a district insider who had not even interviewed. This year, I am going through the process again, this time as a member of my school's SAC - we have been given NO indications from the District of who is on the Principal Selection Committee, when that committee will interview candidates or when a Principal will be named.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 14, 2013 8:18 pm
The process must be done in good faith to be effective. The "administrative culture" of our district has to change if we are ever to be a system of Great schools. They think it is their inalienable right to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and for whatever reason they want. It has become a system which follows no rules and has lost its sense of ethics and moral compass. It is sad to hear that. That is one reason why I am a strong advocate for well enforced "principal selection" policies, practices, and procedures. It is an issue which the SRC needs to openly, honestly and inclusively address. The whole process must be open, transparent, honest, collegial and ultimately democratic.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on April 14, 2013 8:54 pm
In Philly, I think "top" schools like Central and Masterman and Penn Alexander get to have a real interview process. My experience at a neighborhood school is different. Yes, we were given a list of resumes - some looked like they actually knew something about the school and others were very generic. (The number of grammatical errors in the letters / resumes was very disappointing.) It was obvious that Penny Nixon had sent a list of her friends as well as some others who applied. Many had little experience and/or experience not suited for our school. We received "push back" when we did not select Nixon's friends to interview. (This was in writing.) We had given a rationale and they let us interview 3 candidates. We had to rank them. The interviews were very sterile - we had to ask each the same questions and could not divert from the script for fear we would be told we "favored" a particular candidate. After we ranked the 3 candidates, we were told Nixon had the final say. So much for an "open" process.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 14, 2013 9:39 pm
That is exactly why I advocate for the SRC to hold public, inclusive hearings on the issue of how we choose our principals and develop a policy and procedure which is open, transparent, honest, collaborative, collegial, ethical and ultimately democratic. It is the best practice for choosing our principals.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 12, 2013 3:37 pm
Rich, I agree that there should be a site selection process for principals which involves teachers, staff, students, parents, and other members of the community. EGS
Submitted by Phantom Poster (not verified) on April 10, 2013 8:45 pm
As long as the district has to keep paying through the nose for charter schools, there will never be "enough". Harrisburg has screwed this one up nicely.
Submitted by Brian Cohen (not verified) on April 10, 2013 9:04 pm
I find it odd that this coalition exists without a mention of teacher membership. I have a hard time listening to folks making recommendations about what my needs are if they are not in the classroom or never have been.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 10, 2013 11:27 pm
Brian, You make a valid point regarding teacher membership. Personally, I like most of the Coalition for Effective Teaching's proposals. I like that they emphasize teacher responsibilities over certification. Certification is important, but I'm not sure that it should be a primary means of gaining more salary, especially if the research doesn't show that an advanced degree relates strongly to student learning. Many teachers and school districts spend large amounts of money on advanced degrees in teaching. If these teaching degrees have minimal impact on student learning, then what is the purpose of having an advanced degree? I would like there to be more of a focus on teaching practice instead of teacher qualifications. A focus on TEACHING quality is a more direct measure than focusing on teacher quality. The following two articles address the issue of teaching quality vs. teaching qualifications. Hiebert, J. & Morris, A. K. (2012). Teaching, Rather Than Teachers, As a Path Toward Improving Classroom Instruction. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2), pp. 92-102. Retrieved from http://jte.sagepub.com/content/63/2/92.abstract. Cohen, David K. (2010/2011). Learning to Teach Nothing in Particular: A Uniquely American Educational Dilemma, American Educator. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/winter1011/Cohen.pdf. Education Grad Student
Submitted by Annony (not verified) on April 11, 2013 4:20 am
Who will decide which advanced degrees matter? Hite's masters is in education. Did it matter? What about his EdD? Is a masters in a discipline better? (includes a thesis and exams) Will only math / science maters count or humanities count too? Does a masters in administration do anything other than let someone become a principal? (We certainly have a lot of principals who are inadequate, inept, etc.) Who gets to decide?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 11:30 am
Researchers can "prove" whatever researchers want to prove. If we took the staff at any local comprehensive high school and put them in Central High or any of the magnet schools, their advanced degrees and certifications would make a great deal of difference. It is a sad thing that educators are maligning education and telling the teachers-as well as the students- that education doesn't matter. What kind of message is that?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:39 am
Amen!!!!
Submitted by John Hill (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:04 am
I agree completely. In my experience, what matters most is less often what's being said, but who's saying it. As noted above, there are vibrant grassroots organizations and coalitions in this city that include teachers and community stakeholders down to the neighborhood level. It is therefore a very telling choice not to consider the perspective of these groups in matters with which they are directly knowledgeable and in which they are actively leading struggles. This is either just misguided top-down thinking, or, more cynically, it means that their "Teaching Reform" agenda is motivated by interests that are incompatible with the community interests expressed by Teachers Action Group or the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools. Very cynically, this might even be almost a good cop/bad cop strategy with regards to the union--with the SRC being the abusive bad cop and pro-privatization non-profits and foundations trying to step in to "work something out." In any case, the biggest problems the District faces next year are not going to be related to "Teaching Reform." Our District is dangerously underfunded, our schools are being closed or turned over to private entities, the closures are going to sow a whole mess of chaos throughout the city, and the SRC is driving the whole system into a wall over and over again. Before we worry about "progressive" changes in seniority or contracts, why don't we deal with dismantling an SRC that has ridiculously failed in its mission to stabilize the District and getting a directly elected school board. I'd love to see the foundations step up for that!
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on April 11, 2013 9:59 am

What self respecting teachers group would join in this "kick em while their down" attack on the PFT.    This proposal has the finger prints of the PSP and their ilk all over it.   A few points:

This proposal largely ignores the context for the contract negotiations...namely a District hell bent on solving its fiscal crisis on the backs of its workers.   While the proposal does not endorse cutting wages it ignores that the District wants to shed its most experienced teachers to save money.   The elimination of steps for advanced degrees and course work, and seniority, will facilitate this.

Eliminating seniority based positions completely in favor of site selection will  mean that teachers at schools targetted for Renaissance Charter treatment will be fired.   Currently they are treated as force transfers.

Historically advocates have been concerned about the low number of experienced teachers at low performing schools.   This proposal does not address that it all.   Indeed it belittles the importance of experience.

In other professions it is assumed that getting advanced degrees will generally enhance skill.   This proposal would discourage such pursuits.   Deprofessionalizing teaching is one of the hallmarks of the "reformers."

Where is the evidence that site selection, which has existed in Philadelphia now for over a decade, has improved school performance?   My sense is that the results are uneven and a more productive focus would be on making the process work better rather than treating it as a pancea that deserves universal application.  

Other elements of the proposal around improving principal and teacher training make good sense but the devil is always in the details.   The contracting out of this work to the PSP and its minions would not be as step forward.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on April 11, 2013 4:16 pm
Thank you, Ron. The principal training may be with the "Philly Plus." This "initiative" apparently is designed for Teach for America / TFA. After three years of "relevant professional experience.... in an education setting that is related to the instructional process," the prospective leaders will spend one year in a Philly school and then be a principal. Of course, it will be "data driven!" http://www.phillyplus.org/ As a "seasoned" teacher who, I can't imagine someone with 3 years of something related to the "instructional process" is sufficient for providing instructional leadership in a school. We already have far too many administrators who lack enough full time teaching experience to be instructional leaders. It will mean more inexperienced administrators - the Mastery and KIPP Model - with inexperience teachers - the Mastery and KIPP Model - in high needs schools.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 12, 2013 3:01 pm
PPT, I agree that three years of educational experience is not enough. I think that at least 5 years of full-time teaching experience should be a prerequisite for being a principal or assistant principal. It also seems logical that a soon-to-be principal have additional experience as either an assistant principal or teacher leader before becoming a principal. Then, the residency/training program can help make assistant principals or teacher leaders ready for becoming principals. EGS
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 11, 2013 5:54 pm
Hi Ron. Thanks for your perceptive analysis once again. I read their website and much of it sounded pretty good to me until I read this line: "For this reason, we recommend the district create a plan to rebuild its teacher pipeline from the ground up using expert organizations that have a proven track record of designing and implementing." And who might those organizations be? Sounds like it came right out of the PSP playbook. Did Mark Gleason write that for them?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 2:21 pm
I noticed that right away as well. This is a "we" will decide "for you" what 's best for you, and "for us the taxpayers." Seriously?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 12, 2013 4:26 pm
I know this is going to be unpopular but yesterday an Overbrook student was killed at Overbrook and apparently 2 other kids injured. HORRIBLE stuff but this is the school, the SRC will be sending Beeber kids to if they elect to close Beeber which, aside from this incident or anything else, is a disgrace. In any case, nasty stuff like this, occurs much more in High Schools, of course, but it's just fine sending 11 and 12 year old children into an environment of much older students. Makes sense to me.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 12, 2013 6:16 pm
God bless the student who was murdered and my sympathy to the family and friends of Bernard. There is no way that the SRC is going to vote to send the Beeber kids there now. They already presented a strong case and this tragic incident will certainly make the SDP & SRC think hard.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 12, 2013 9:10 pm
No, Joe, you are completely right. If anything good comes from this horrible situation and loss of life at Overbrook, it may be that Beeber students will not have to go to Overbrook. It saddens and angers me that the death of a student has to be the last straw that prevents sending Beeber students to Overbrook. EGS
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 12, 2013 9:40 pm
Believe it or not, I still think the SRC has at least a 50-50 shot of closing Beeber. There's not much they could do which would surprise me. Having said that, if they do close Beeber, that should tell everybody how little they value the Beeber kids AND how little they value their own dignity such as it is.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 11, 2013 10:55 pm
Yes, it is akin to Catholic Priests as marriage counselors. In any case, this group is all about destroying worker rights so the business model can make money for the corporate types. Even I can figure that out. In fact, I think I can spell coalition too.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 12, 2013 3:07 pm
Lol, Joe, I love your analogy of Catholic priests as marriage counselors. EGS
Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on April 10, 2013 9:42 pm
I agree, Brian. There are teacher groups that could have been good partners in this: Teachers Lead PHL, TAGPhilly, the PFT, PHLwip all really do have in depth knowledge of what teachers need to do their jobs well in this environment. All of those groups have experience in running their own professional development activities by and for teachers-- this gives them the real knowledge of what would benefit the profession of teaching.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:06 am
Exactly so why weren't any teacher groups part of this so called collaborative????
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2013 10:26 pm
I'm shocked that the members of this coalition would come out in favor of taking away collective bargaining rights from teachers. Seniority is a protection from being singled out and punished by an incompetent and vindictive administrator. It allows teachers to speak out and question decisions made by principals without having to face retribution. Principal autonomy is one of the worst things the district could implement. Any teacher knows this. Would any member of this coalition come out against seniority rights for any other worker in any other union? Site selection has already opened the door for favoritism, cronyism and nepotism. Abolition of seniority would only make it worse. If you are against seniority, then you are in favor of returning to the corrupt system which denied rights to all school district employees. If you are against seniority, then you are in favor of giving the administrators at 440 carte blanche. This is not Wisconsin. Lisa Haver
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:42 am
Thank you for pointing out that they are proposing to strip collective bargaining rights. Like hello people the proposal is like a wolf in sheeps clothing. Let alone not including any teaching organizations what about including other ethnicity based organizations besides the ones for Latinos. Was the NAACP unavailable for this coalition. Did they contact Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha or any black fraternal organization with an emphasis on education as part of its mission. Were they even invited to sit at the table to collaborate. What about the ethnic Asian organizations???? I find it strange that the "collaborative" wasnt inclusive at all. What about the LGBT organizations? So Aspira and Congresso historically self centered in thier philosophies and interest suddenly wants to present a proposal to impact the entire city without including other stakeholders. Not very credible at all.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:59 am
Lol. Yes, the failure of Philadelphia schools (and government generally) is not enough identity politic movements in the decision making process. Quite the contrary. BTW, they didn't include taxpayers either since they want to increase everyone's taxes to protect the current pay structure. But I guess you are perfectly happy with that omission.
Submitted by John Hill (not verified) on April 11, 2013 9:21 am
Teachers and community residents do pay taxes. Also, one of the purposes of large foundations is to shelter rich people from having to pay all their taxes.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 12, 2013 1:33 pm
No, it's like a wolf in wolf's clothing. Anybody who gets cable or has a computer, knows the goal of these gibronies. It's all about increasing the profits of the corporate charter types by cutting all things worker related. The FOLKS ALL better wake up and fight this turning back the clock to a time we don't need. Unions are good for all workers !!
Submitted by Annony (not verified) on April 11, 2013 3:27 am
Attacking seniority outright is an attack on more "seasoned" teachers. This opens the door for the "drive through" teachers / Teach for America types. Lower pay / easier to manage. Most of the organizations in this coalition are connected to charters and the business community. This group has little credibility other than promoting the SRC/Hite/Khin agenda. (Aspira and Congresso have directly benefit from the expansion of charters. United Way enabled the Boston Consulting Group to get paid. PCCY has endorsed decreasing District run preschools. The list goes on...) The bit about salaries is a rouse. There's no money coming from Harrisburg and people won't drink enough in Philly to add to the dole. (Nutter's measly proposal to increase liquor by the drink tax by 5%). Lastly, the loop hole about class size is just that - a loop hole. For example, having students take Advanced Placement classes via on-line courses will only work for a few students. Most students in AP courses in the District (and charters) are not successful on the exams. They will have less success if they are "blended" in something on-line. This is another attempt to dismantle and destroyed a unionized workforce of teachers / school staff in Philadelphia.
Submitted by Anon (not verified) on April 11, 2013 7:15 am
Eliminating seniority certainly will not entice people to stay within the district, This includes newer people. The students will suffer with a lack of consistency. I want to mention that I have met several - yes, several - teachers in my career who were incredible yet had no advanced degrees. They had the master's equivalency, but their only official degrees were a Bachelor's in Education. I would have wanted my children in their class in a heartbeat.
Submitted by Annony (not verified) on April 11, 2013 3:28 am
Attacking seniority outright is an attack on more "seasoned" teachers. This opens the door for the "drive through" teachers / Teach for America types. Lower pay / easier to manage. Most of the organizations in this coalition are connected to charters and the business community. This group has little credibility other than promoting the SRC/Hite/Khin agenda. (Aspira and Congresso have directly benefit from the expansion of charters. United Way enabled the Boston Consulting Group to get paid. PCCY has endorsed decreasing District run preschools. The list goes on...) The bit about salaries is a rouse. There's no money coming from Harrisburg and people won't drink enough in Philly to add to the dole. (Nutter's measly proposal to increase liquor by the drink tax by 5%). Lastly, the loop hole about class size is just that - a loop hole. For example, having students take Advanced Placement classes via on-line courses will only work for a few students. Most students in AP courses in the District (and charters) are not successful on the exams. They will have less success if they are "blended" in something on-line. This is another attempt to dismantle and destroyed a unionized workforce of teachers / school staff in Philadelphia.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 6:30 am
Congresso and Aspira has historically only shown interest in the Latino community so why all of a sudden show interest in other people and communities. Those two organizations are dumb enough to be the used as pawns. As guess other community groups were too smart to fall for such nonsense. So I wonder which consultant group said here read this & I wonder what they promised Congresso and Aspira in return. The transparency of this charade is really quite comical. Congresso and Aspira have never contributed anything outside of their neighborhood boundaries now all of a sudden they're ambassadors for school reform. Highly unlikely.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:17 pm
Annony--Yes, that's exactly what the goal is disguised as a pure motive. What crap !!!! Their spelling is also curious.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 8:55 am
You are correct, Lisa. However, I would add that seniority protects teachers from being removed from their building for making too much money. When the media talks about seniority, they make it seem that (for example) there are two third grade teachers. Declining enrollment means the school will only have one. Teacher A has 4 years experience and is wonderful. Teacher B has 20 years experience and is horrible, shows up drunk to class, smokes during class, swears at the kids, locks them in closets, etc. OH NO! Seniority means the nice teacher has to leave, and the abusive teacher gets to stay. What I see happening is you have two teachers. Teacher A has 4 years and is a pretty darn good teacher. Teacher B has 20 years, and is equally a pretty darn good teacher. You also have a very good principal. 440 pressures her to remove Teacher B for the budget. Why? Teacher B has way more experience and MAKES. MORE. MONEY. That is what should be addressed. I once site-selected for a position, and when the principal I and I were walking into the interview room he said, "don't be nervous". I didn't think I looked nervous but I appreciated what he said. The interview committee seemed bored from the get-go. Now, in hindsight, me thinks they had someone in mind, and it wasn't me.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 8:26 am
There is no doubt that ageism has been rearing its ugly head more and more over the last few years. Site selection means that no principal has to justify picking one applicant over another. And keep in mind that principals have absolute veto power over the committee. There is no way any principal would have selected me, for obvious reasons. It gives the administration power to bring the teachers who are "team players" with them when they transfer to another school ( I would bet that most of us have seen this move). There are too many reasons to list here about why principal autonomy. I think everyone's main concern should be the atmosphere it would create in every school: one of fear. Yes, I know that exists already, but not in every school. There are still places where teachers' opinions are valued. I have seen many teachers come out to the community meetings and SRC meetings trying to save their schools. If this goes through, you won't see teachers at SRC meetings anymore. I think the PFT members should speak out against any kind of union-busting, no matter who advocates it. Lisa
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 11, 2013 1:45 pm
Lisa--Of course, you are totally right. Their goal is Union Bashing no matter how they try to couch it. What a bunch of crap and that signed being spelled incorrectly is perfect. A picture tells a thousand words. The young heads on here need to google seniority and why the Supreme Court approved its use almost 100 years ago. It protects against discrimination in lots of ways, not the least of which, is age discrimination.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 1:46 pm
There are public misconceptions about seniority and tenure. Otherwise, no rational person would honestly be opposed to them. A tenured teacher can be fired for just cause, regardless of how much seniority they have. A key purpose of seniority is to ensure fairness and protect a person's livelihood from arbitrariness and capriciousness. Which ties in to another misconception--Whenever compensation is discussed, it seems that only the top salaries are reported. It's rarely mentioned that teachers only reach these salaries after 20 years of making far less.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 1:27 pm
If a Principal is doing their job, a teacher like Teacher B should be removed by procedures which follow due process. Seniority should not even be an issue in this situation.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 9:36 pm
I would argue the more realistic dilemma (and one I've seen a lot) is that teacher A has 6 years of experience and is adequate, and teacher B has 4 years of experience and is outstanding (or maybe even several years of experience, but only 1-2 in the SDP). There's only one position. The school can't keep the far better teacher, based solely on tenure in the building. That's an issue that is a bit harder to justify, other than the "teachers are all equally effective so we have to use seniority" argument that most people (other than unionized teachers) actually believes. That is actually a big deterrent for people to stick with teaching. That first layoff/transfer after only one year in the building, even after they poured their heart and soul into it, can make other professions where they don't fire/transfer you just for being new seem quite appealing to a young professional. And it can sting even more if the person who kept the position was, while not fireably bad, clearly either less invested or less skilled. The argument that getting rid of seniority would deter people from teaching is nonsense. In my experience, I know more people who either left or never entered the teaching profession because they really didn't like the idea of a skilled profession where everybody was compensated in lock-step with seniority throughout their entire careers. I can't think of any other highly educated profession that is compensated in this way.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 11, 2013 10:08 pm
If that teacher is so good with four years experience, she would have no trouble finding another good position through the site selection process. If they did not, they would be moving to another school where they still need outstanding teachers just as much as that present school. So in the balance of things, neither the teacher nor the students are harmed. Dedicated teachers are resilient enough to adjust to a new school community. Good administrators find ways to keep their good teachers. That is one reason why multiple certifications should be rewarded by an increase in pay -- the more certifications per teacher enables better adjustments when cuts have to made for budgetary reasons. Also, if the district really cared about that, they would find a way to keep that teacher in the school's budget. I know and understand all of the arguments against seniority, but it is the least bad way of doing things. It is not only a contractual provision, but it is also written into the School Code when there are reductions of total staff within a school district. The last in, first out provisions of the School Code were well reasoned by our General Assembly and codified long before there were any teachers unions. It is a well reasoned provision of the School Code. The reason seniority is necessary is that many principals cut teachers based on subjective reasons and they cut teachers based on retaliatory reasons, too. They also cut teachers because of their union activity. In other words, the culture of the school district has been, especially jn the recent past, to "take care of our friends" and "punish our enemies." The PFT did not create that culture -- they just deal with that culture.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 12, 2013 6:11 am
well said, Rich. The misunderstanding people have with Tenure is that they assume that it means that an ineffective teacher cannot be fired (I hate the term "terminated") and that is simply not the case. All that Tenure does is to provide teachers with the basic right that all Americans have of being "innocent until proven guilty" by making the District defend their actions by proving their case. This is why a lot of administrators and District officials are so anti-tenure, they want to fire "at will" based on personal not professional reasons, such as nepotism, union activity, a teacher who may question a school or District policy, race, gender, age or just plain "I don't like you." It's the same with Seniority. If given the choice between a veteran teacher who has years of experience and is a proven effective teacher, BUT happens to question policies, is active in the teachers' union, is on the upper end of the salary scale or is simply not liked VS a young kid out of college or with just s few years in the system who is starting out on the low end of the salary scale, keeps their mouth shut and is not a Union member -- there are still too many administrators out there who would get rid of the experienced, proven educator and the kids best interest be damned.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 12, 2013 7:49 am
Yes. Tenure protects only the good teachers. It does not protect any so called "bad teacher." I do a whole lot of legal work based on tenure violations of the school district. The purpose of tenure as stated by the PA supreme Court is: To protect the professional employee from being "subjected to unfounded charges." It is designed to protect professional employees from illegal action based on their political or personal belief so that teachers and administrators can more effectively serve their students. It gives tenured professional employees due process rights and property rights in continued employment and provides the legal causes and required processes necessary to discharge or demote a teacher or principal. Its purpose is to protect "freedom of thought and belief" within the profession of teaching. To me that is a basic human right. It is certainly a constitutional right of all Americans.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 12, 2013 8:18 am
I think something better than tenure needs to be created to protect teachers from political influence. Ms. Haver talks about the need for protection against "age discrimination". Well right now, tenure discriminates against the young. Discrimination happens anytime consideration(s) other than professional qualifications and ability are considered in granting a person employment. Look at the new nonsmoker requirement for employment that Penn Medicine is planning to implement. They have very convincing arguments for doing this; however, the "bottom line" is, it is discrimination because it would mean a more qualified candidate would be denied employment in the case that he/she is a smoker. In the case where an older worker is let go because he/she commands a higher salary than an equally competent but less experienced employee, that is a decision that happens. It is not a good one, but our pay should depend on the value we add to an organization, not necessarily how long we've been there. Here, a privatized business offers more protection than a government bureaucracy, because experience can mean the difference between a business succeeding or not. I believe also an employee can sue an employer for compensation if he/she can prove termination due to age discrimination.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 14, 2013 5:34 pm
Ms. Cheng, You make some interesting points. However, I disagree with your points about tenure. One thing tenure does is to protect dissent. When dealing with the myriad of issues arising in schools---IEPs, discipline issues, professional development, best practices, and so on---teachers need to have the freedom to express professional judgement and not be in fear that just because of what one says, the principal will fire him/her. One teacher who teaches for the SDP told me that her principal wasn't knowledgeable of special ed issues. She said that there was something that had to be done because of IDEA but the principal disagreed. I forget what it was, but it was important. Anyway, the teacher had to call Office of Specialized Services (OSS) about the issue and OSS agreed with the teacher because she was right. The teacher asked someone from OSS to cc the principal on an email in order to provide clarification. The principal was harassing the teacher because the principal didn't like the teacher contacting OSS behind the principal's back. However, this contact had to be done because it was a legal matter. According to your definition, "Discrimination happens anytime consideration(s) other than professional qualifications and ability are considered in granting a person employment." By this definition, a number of charter schools would be discriminating against employees because many charter schools want a particular type of employee who agrees with their values. These values often go beyond professional qualifications. I can imagine that some charters could pressure teachers to advocate on behalf of expanding charter schools even if a teacher believed that there needed to be balance in the system so that charters could exist while not starving traditional public schools. There needs to be protection for senior teachers so that districts can't lay off senior teachers just because they are more expensive. At the same time, there need to be ways to prevent employees in any organization from becoming complacent and doing the minimum. This applies to teachers as well. Some people are prone to to slack off if they have job security. How can an organization best motivate these employees to adapt and perform at higher levels? What happens if a teacher doesn't have the energy anymore to teach well? Do we protect the teacher even if this hurts the educations of kids? These are all questions with complicated answers that are important to ask and discuss. It is reasonable to ask if degrees and certifications are the best way to compensate teachers. It's the system in place, but just because someone has a certification doesn't mean that he/she is good at teaching in that certificate area. How well does the teacher APPLY the competencies that she/he has due to that certification? Maybe the teacher needs to show certain competencies in his/her in order for him/her to receive a pay raise for that certificate. These are just ideas, and I put them out here for discussion. IS THERE A BETTER WAY? If there is, how do we get there? In this country, there needs to be a shift in thinking from talking about teachers to teaching. Teacher A could be a developing teacher for 2 years, a great teacher for 25 years, but sub-par for her last 3 years because she lacks the energy and patience necessary to do her job and evolve her teaching. Teacher A may no longer have the ability to manage a class. In addition, Teacher A may not be differentiating instruction because it wasn't until last year that she had to do it. She is set in her ways and uses pretty much a one-size-fits-all type of instruction. My point here is that the same teacher's teaching can differ in quality at particular times. There needs to be more focus on teaching quality instead of teacher qualifications. This is why I cite the following article so much: Hiebert, J. & Morris, A. K. (2012). Teaching, Rather Than Teachers, As a Path Toward Improving Classroom Instruction. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2), pp. 92-102. Retrieved from http://jte.sagepub.com/content/63/2/92.abstract. I understand that there are issues with nepotism and bullying from principals. There should be multiple people evaluating a teacher, including the principal and other teachers. Principals should be held accountable for fairly and professionally evaluating teachers. What happens in neighboring suburban districts? How do administrators there reward the best teachers and get rid of "ineffective" teachers? Are these districts more rigorous at evaluating teachers? Is this related to pressure from parents who pay a lot in property taxes to live in the school district? What do principals in the best districts do to help teachers develop and use best practices? Are principals in other districts more knowledgeable of special ed issues than some of the principals in Philly? Thus, Ms. Cheng, while I disagree with some of your conclusions about tenure and seniority, I'm interested in why you think the way you do about them. What helped form your opinions? How do we balance seniority and performance in the classroom? How can the system of compensating teachers and providing tenure improve in the 21st Century? EGS
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 15, 2013 8:17 am
Thanks EGS for your thoughts. My thoughts are based on observation. I saw outstanding tenured teachers, as well as extremely poorly motivated even more tenured ones. The latter, besides hiding their ineffectiveness/lack of motivation behind "expertease" were responsible for sabotaging and disparaging the work of their colleagues, in "official" ways. Political position was their priority and they did not hesitate to apply their influence on a weak principal. Would it not be the concern of the teachers of integrity and ultimately the PFT to have a better way to evaluate teachers while still protecting them from arbitrary firing or demotion? I believe, despite the reasons/benefits you give, that the current system is as harmful as it is protective. I disagree with Mr. Migliore who says that keeping a teacher that does not teach as well instead of a junior teacher who teaches better, does not harm the students. I have concrete observations that say otherwise. In addition, I have memories of my own teachers and the difference the good ones made.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 15, 2013 9:59 am
Ms. Cheng, that is not what I said. I said that transferring a highly effective teacher to another school because of budgetary cuts and seniority does not hurt students "on balance" because the students at the other school need an outstanding teacher just as much as the students at the teacher's present school. No matter how you statistically divide the quality of teachers, 25% are in the above average quartile, 50% are in the average range, and 25% are in the below average range. That will always be the case. Without a professionally sound objective teacher evaluation system which is done in good faith across the board, teacher ratings are highly subjective and based on one's own opinions. If there are any teachers in any school who are incompetent or fail to do their jobs properly, it is up to the administration to appropriately evaluate the teacher, and remove the teacher from the ranks. No one, not even the PFT, disagrees with that. In every school I have ever worked, the good teachers wanted the administrators to deal with those who were viewed as less than adequate. What you describe is the consequence of "ineffective leadership." It is not the fault of tenure. Nor is it the fault of seniority.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 15, 2013 9:48 am
Sorry for the misunderstanding. O.k. then, how do we get a "professionally sound objective teacher evaluation system"? Both your and EGS' defense of the current system is in its ability to prevent actions due to arbitrary or nonobjective evaluation; however, it does not at the same time improve or encourage the sought after objectivity. The "protection" rather becomes a layer that also prevents consequences from what may be an accurate assessment, but able to be dismissed as "personal" or "arbitrary"; An assessment that may not include factors serious enough to identify a bad teacher, but important nevertheless. There needs to be more work by the PFT on creating this "professionally sound objective teacher evalution system". Right now, tenure is not it.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 15, 2013 10:17 am
Ms. Cheng, I love your comments and appreciate your zeal, but you are confusing the concept of tenure with the concept of appropriate evaluations. Teacher tenure, in the words of the PA Supreme Court, only "protects teachers from being subjected to unfounded charges." It protects teachers from "improper motive" and actions taken against them because of their "political activity." Tenure protects "freedom of thought," "freedom of speech" and freedom of association." It protects teacher rights to stand up and be heard if they think that things could be done in a better way. Tenure protects no teacher from being fairly evaluated and removed from his or her position. Nor does it protect teachers from being removed for cause. It only guarantees teachers due process rights. This is America. The due process clause is written into our Constitution. Removing incompetent teachers is not an unwieldy process as the teacher bashers would have you believe. That is a myth. Teachers are removed just about every month and they are definitely removed every year. Many more are "counseled out." Instead of focusing on the mythology of tenure, we should be focusing on "how to keep Great teachers in our schools and how to create a professional teaching climate which will make them want to teach in Philadelphia and remain here." When a Great teacher walks out of the district, what quality of teacher usually replaces them?
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 15, 2013 11:28 am
Thanks Mr. Migliore, but then how do we explain the existence of truly miserable(albeit professionally credentialed) teachers with lots of tenure? Unfortunately though many may be counseled out, many (saw several at my neighborhood school) are not; and by the sheer fact of their tenure, when it comes to hiring, they are preferentially placed over junior, perhaps much better teachers. Preferential placement that is mandated by tenure implies preferential evaluation, does it not? I think that the PFT should try an elected board (which would use your idea of fairness/democracy) of teachers that would review any demotion or firing of teachers, having power in much the same way that an arbitration panel does to settle disputes. They could be compensated from union dues, or not, if that would create a bias. They would need that basis of objective professional evaluation from which to work, and a procedure which would allow improvement/remediation. What do you think?
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 15, 2013 12:33 pm
Tenure does not require any preferential treatment of teachers based on age or longevity. To the contrary, it requires that all teachers be treated fairly and equally. There is another provision in the School Code, which is "not" part of the the "teacher tenure provisions" which requires that all "reductions in workforce" because of "budgetary constraints" within all school districts be done in a "last in first out basis." That provision is not because of teacher tenure. It is just another School Code provision which requires an "orderly and objective process" in the event of reductions in work force. Tenure does not give any teacher any rights to a position in any school. It only gives teachers a right to continued employment within that school district. It also gives teachers the right not be fired without just cause and without "some kind of a hearing" before an "impartial tribunal." The PFT contract is what gives teachers a "contractual right" to their positions in schools based only on the bargained for contract language. Seniority is only part of that rubric. The seniority provisions of the PFT contract are "contractual provisions" which were bargained for because it is the least bad way of doing it. Otherwise favoritism and impropriety would prevail. It always has and it always will. You speak much of the bad experience and the impropriety you witnessed in a previous school. That does not happen in all schools. There is a common misunderstanding of how tenure works and the underlying values it codifies. Tenure is about maintaining "teaching as a profession." Again, if there are teachers in any school who do not meet their job responsibilities, the blame lies with the administration. They have a legal duty to do their jobs competently, too.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 15, 2013 12:01 pm
Tenure does not require any preferential treatment of teachers based on age or longevity. To the contrary, it requires that all teachers be treated fairly and equally. There is another provision in the School Code, which is "not" part of the the "teacher tenure provisions" which requires that all "reductions in workforce" because of "budgetary constraints" within all school districts be done in a "last in first out basis." That provision is not because of teacher tenure. It is just another School Code provision which requires an "orderly and objective process" in the event of reductions in work force. Tenure does not give any teacher any rights to a position in any school. It only gives teachers a right to continued employment within that school district. It also gives teachers the right not be fired without just cause and without "some kind of a hearing" before an "impartial tribunal." The PFT contract is what gives teachers a "contractual right" to their positions in schools based only on the bargained for contract language. Seniority is only part of that rubric. The seniority provisions of the PFT contract are "contractual provisions" which were bargained for because it is the least bad way of doing it. Otherwise favoritism and impropriety would prevail. It always has and it always will. You speak much of the bad experience and the impropriety you witnessed in a previous school. That does not happen in all schools. There is a common misunderstanding of how tenure works and the underlying values it codifies. Tenure is about maintaining "teaching as a profession." Again, if there are teachers in any school who do not meet their job responsibilities, the blame lies with the administration. They have a legal duty to do their jobs competently, too.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 15, 2013 7:45 pm
What some of the charters have figured out is that children of impoverished families are not ready for "teaching as a profession". They require services that (despite the disparagement) equate to surrogate parenting. I'm also not sure that a protection that was created for professors in higher education, to shield them from political influence translates equally to K-12 education. I agree employees need protection from wrongful termination, but they have the right to sue, do they not? Having tenure, even if the blame is with administrators, seems not to be preventing favoritism or impropriety at all if that was its purpose. In K-12, teachers can't work alone, as they can in higher education. Whether a teacher is not "wanted" because of differences of opinion, or must be kept employed despite these, the damage to teamwork is still the same.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 15, 2013 9:51 pm
Ms. Cheng, Regarding the current evaluation system in PA, it is based on Charlotte Danielson's Framework book Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching. The book is available from ASCD and is very readable even for those who aren't teachers. I have the book and I like it. I find it to be a very valuable guideline of what constitutes quality teaching. You can find the PDE evaluation forms for teachers here: http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/applications.... I also recommend reading these articles. The best way to access the Hiebert & Morris article is through a university database. Hiebert, J. & Morris, A. K. (2012). Teaching, Rather Than Teachers, As a Path Toward Improving Classroom Instruction. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2), pp. 92-102. Retrieved from http://jte.sagepub.com/content/63/2/92.abstract. Cohen, David K. (2010/2011). Learning to Teach Nothing in Particular: A Uniquely American Educational Dilemma, American Educator. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/winter1011/Cohen.pdf. EGS
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 16, 2013 8:18 am
EGS thanks so much for the references.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 15, 2013 9:27 pm
Rich, I agree with your statement that "No matter how you statistically divide the quality of teachers, 25% are in the above average quartile, 50% are in the average range, and 25% are in the below average range. That will always be the case." I think an issue to consider is how to raise the minimum standard so that even below-average teachers are legitimately satisfactory. From my brief experiences as a student teacher and now an employee with the School District of Philadelphia, I have seen 2 teachers whose teaching is of very poor quality. This encompasses classroom management, instructional delivery, and treatment of students. If I was a parent and my child had either of these teachers, I would be furious. In comparing my time in District schools versus the Mastery school, one big difference I observed was that the minimum standard or floor required of teachers and staff was higher. In other words, Mastery had higher minimum expectations and made sure that teachers were meeting these minimum expectations, especially during the school day. Examples include classroom management basics like making sure students walked quietly in the halls, using an appropriate tone of voice when speaking with students, and having well-planned lessons. I know that some teachers were late submitting lesson plans at Mastery; this is why I said "especially during the school day." I can think of one new teacher for whom this was the case. This teacher's teacher coach ended up doing some of the teacher's lesson plans so that the other teachers in the same grade had lesson plans. (This school used grade level co-planning). In terms of other employees, the janitors at the Mastery school were much more thorough than the janitors at the District school where I work and District school where I student taught. Both building engineers at these 2 District schools have been/are great. However, others have told me that not all building engineers are as good. Everyone acknowledges that the quality of principals in the District varies widely. I understand the need to make sure that employees have a manageable workload. There is a balance between providing a quality education for students and providing fair working conditions and expectations for workers. Indeed, one of my biggest criticisms of Mastery is that they work their teachers too hard. Based on my own short experience, I do see that the metaphorical seesaw is weighted heavily toward the interests of District employees, to the point that it compromises the quality of education for students. In other words, it's easy for people to get away with not doing their job, especially if the principal is busy/doesn't do his/her job and if other employees don't speak up about employees who don't do their jobs. The poor performance of a small number/minority of employees hurts the reputation of the District and its teachers tremendously and provides ammunition for school reformers who have an interest in busting unions and privatizing the District. EGS
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 15, 2013 8:55 pm
Ms. Cheng, While I may disagree with some of you somewhat on tenure and seniority, I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND and AGREE with your points regarding evaluation as well as teachers with poor motivation. People on this site think I'm two-faced because I seem to have diametrically opposed views on teachers and teaching, but there is nothing of the sort. I occupy a middle ground. I believe strongly in unions, tenure, and seniority. At the same time, I see serious flaws with the current system of evaluating teachers. The flaws in evaluating teachers are what undermine support of policies like tenure, seniority, and unionized teachers. I have said here before that the PFT needs to take a hard look at itself and be more concerned about the QUALITY teaching that its members provide. (I like to think more in terms of teaching quality that teacher quality, hence my language. The best public relations that the PFT can do for itself is to have consistently high-quality members who provide high-quality instruction and service for the children of this city. Parents and kids don't see Jerry Jordan---they see the teachers, classroom assistants, secretaries, and other PFT members who work in the schools. Quality matters, especially in the court of public opinion. The more experiences that parents and students have with low-quality teachers who lack the motivation to effectively teach and conduct themselves professionally, the less likely that these parents and students will support the teachers and other PFT members. If the union wants strong public support, the union cannot be complacent about the SMALL but noticeable number of employees who week after week, year after year, go through the motions and do the minimum. I have spent time in 3 District schools. I will speak about the most recent 2 schools, the one at which I student taught and the one at which I now work. I am a classroom assistant. I have spent time with 2 teachers. One teacher is a good teacher...she does her job, engages her students, treats them respectfully, conducts herself professionally. If my child was in her class, I'd be satisfied with her. The other teacher is a poor teacher. She does the minimum. She spends more time during the school day, when students are in the class, on her computer working on IEPs and progress monitoring than actually teaching. When she does teach, her instruction isn't particularly well organized. Directions aren't completely clear. The expectations are low. Once she's done providing instruction, she tells students to do their work. Then she goes back on her laptop to work on IEPs and progress monitoring. Her lesson plans are about one sentence for each activity or lesson. There are no objectives or statements about standards on the lesson plans. One of the kids in the class was napping for an hour during class. The teacher never went over to wake up the kid or engage him in the lesson. If I was a parent of a child in this class, I would be FURIOUS! And even though I'm not a parent, I still care about the kids and I am disturbed by the lack of instruction and minimal effort from the teacher. This teacher CAN teach if she put more effort into her craft. I'm sure she could pass a formal evaluation because she would have time to prepare. At the same time, a formal evaluation occurs at most 3 times per year. What about the other instructional time in the classroom? The principal is very hands off. If the principal were more hands on, walked through the building, and dropped in to see what was happening, the teacher might be more "on her toes." I feel bad saying this because I know that some teachers are very dedicated and do a great job regardless of what the principal does. But this teacher of whom I speak is not one of them. I have seen at least one other teacher who is extremely ineffective as well, this other teacher being at the school where I student taught. As someone who cares for children and the teaching profession, it behooves me to step up and do the right thing for the kids. For me, this is doing the best I can. It also means reporting what I'm seeing to people who can do something about it, i.e. special education liaison or school counselor. If people call me a snitch, because I'm a PFT member speaking up about another member not doing their job, so be it. So, as an employee of the District who cares about the children I serve, what do I do? I like the teacher personally, but what she is doing is in no way good for her students. As I said, no caring parent would be happy if they saw what I have seen. I have been taking notes and at some point, when I have been at the school a little longer, I will be addressing it with someone at the school--the principal, special education liaison, and/or counselor. What I want is simple---I want the children to be receiving better instruction. Their futures are at stake. Full disclosure, I am seeking a teaching position for the Fall. So yes, it angers me that there are teachers doing such a poor job when I am looking for work and see them doing a poor job when there are others who could be doing a better job of teaching and managing a classroom. At the same time, with the way things are in the SDP, I don't know if I want to work in Philly. I'd much rather work in another district in which I'll receive more support and be pushed to really develop into a teacher who is great at teaching and given adequate working conditions. At the same time, I WANT to teach in Philly. The children in this city---many of them who come from very disadvantaged backgrounds and need a good education---deserve the best education available. So yes, Ms. Cheng, I see what you see and it angers me too. However, the biggest issue isn't tenure or seniority. It's complacency---on the part of principals, teachers, other employees, and adults in a position to ACT and SPEAK UP and do what's right for kids, even if doing so isn't popular with other adults. Education Grad Student (and School District of Philadelphia employee)
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 16, 2013 9:05 am
EGS, yes, besides the behavior kids, the few unmotivated (or perhaps just needing a break), and enabled by poor management, teachers do push parents to seek alternatives to the SDP such as charters. As Mr. Migliore pointed out, the best way to correct this is to improve the management. Also the District needs to change its "first in, last out" to "worst out first, best out last". Due process should be a guarantee regardless of time in. Why do you need a separate institution, called tenure, to guarantee this? And yes experience is valuable, but how does giving those who have seniority (and yes tenure is tied to seniority right now) greater protection, improve their professional performance? What political controversy does a K-12 teacher face in his/her day to day responsibilities? The structure of public education is changing, and some of these changes may ultimately benefit the dedicated teacher. Contract work is replacing the lifetime job for many. If you are good at what you do, you will get a following.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 8:55 am
they should probably spell-check their sign...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 11:59 am
OMG you're right. How embarrassing.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:31 pm
can anybody make the picture of this sign go viral? it would certainly destroy their credibility as any kind of educator--pretend or otherwise
Submitted by Anonymous on April 11, 2013 1:48 pm
Apparently someone took you up on your offer. A pic has gone viral. http://cheezburger.com/7316059904
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:24 pm
They can't even spell right!!!!! That is hilarious!!!!! The coalition for effective teaching. I'm sending it to Jay Leno.
Submitted by anon, anon, we must go anon (not verified) on April 11, 2013 2:43 pm
It looks like they were to busy picking out their coordinating outfits to bother to proofread the sign. Someone needs to be fired. How embarrassing!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:52 pm
They can't even spell right!!!!! That is hilarious!!!!! The coalition for effective teaching. I'm sending it to Jay Leno.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 14, 2013 8:42 pm
Who knows if that was their error though. It could have been the error of the printer of the sign. But they could have at least tried to correct the error with a carrot top or something.... EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 9:49 am
They asked us to sign on to this but we didn't because PennCan and PSP were chief architects of this document. How can they lead effective teaching campaign without even the ability to spell.check.
Submitted by Helen Gym on April 11, 2013 4:04 pm

Can you contact me about this? parentsunitedphila@gmail.com Would be interested in details.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 9:32 am
They asked us to sign on to this but we didn't because PennCan and PSP were chief architects of this document. How can they lead effective teaching campaign without even the ability to spell.check.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 10:54 am
wasn't it ASPIRA who refused a school because it was not majority hispanic?
Submitted by Annony (not verified) on April 11, 2013 4:14 pm
Yes
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 12, 2013 4:37 pm
The school in question was Daroff School in Haddington. Daroff and its neighborhood are both overwhelmingly African American. ASPIRA works primarily with the Latino/a communities in the city. While acknowledging that children are children and people are people, there are some unique cultural considerations that arise when working with an African-American community versus a mostly Puerto Rican community. EGS
Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on April 11, 2013 12:44 pm
COALTION for effective teaching? LOVE IT!
Submitted by Gamal Sherif on April 11, 2013 1:14 pm
If we wanted to enrich healthcare in the US, we could form "Coalition for Effective Healthcare." We wouldn't call it "Coalition for Effective Nursing" as that blames nurses for system that they have little control of. Similarly, "Coalition for Effective Teaching" implicates teachers. We have effective teachers who struggle with ineffective working conditions.
Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on April 11, 2013 2:00 pm
Agreed. Let's look at all the systemic problems--most of which do not have to do with teachers. Generational poverty, lack of equitable funding, etc... are the big issues.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 11, 2013 8:23 pm
What's generational poverty and obvious racial funding inequities have to do with education or life for that matter. That sign is priceless and opens a can of worms they don't need.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 12, 2013 4:20 pm
And Jerry Jordon is part of this coalition!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 1:35 pm
No we do not need teacher reform. We need parent reform.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 3:47 pm
Quoting the article: "PFT president Jerry Jordan said that "we respect and value their opinions. They clearly are concerned about public education in the city." This is incredibly disingenuous on Jerry Jordan's part. He is on the Board of the Philadelphia Education Fund. http://www.philaedfund.org/about-us/board-directors Why doesn't he state that in the interview? Why does he compliment an organization that wants to do away with seniority??
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 11, 2013 4:51 pm
I hate to say, I told you so but I.......................... Jordan is a questionable character in all this nonsense. Of course, he should have immediately distanced himself from a union busting group and believe me, their goal is to bust the union so the corporations' profit margins increase at the direct expense of the work force. That's all there is to it and older heads who know history have seen this shell game many times in many different forms. Seniority isn't perfect but it's MUCH better than the alternative which is blatant discrimination all over the place.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 10:36 pm
Yep Joe, and someone suggested in a previous comment (another article) that the PFT is not killing themselves about representing teachers because it may be easier to do bargaining with lower wage teachers in the workforce. When I see teachers being terminated and the PFT not putting up a fight that spells trouble.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 7:10 pm
I appreciate much of what this group is saying. Although, I am disappointed that they are against rewarding EDUcators for furthering their EDUcation. I do find that somewhat ironic.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 8:34 pm
First, it's really not appropriate that these groups are trying to involve themselves in contract negotiations..especially when the atmosphere is so bad.I don't see how this can open the lines of communication between the PFT and the new hires at the SDP. Also,please be aware that Donna Cooper was Rendell's director of policy and she was the person who put Arlene Ackerman in the superintendent's job. She's already done enough harm to public ed. in the city. I am sure that the others involved never taught in the Phila. public schools...or if any of them did, they didn't last too long!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 8:26 pm
Who put these people up to what they are saying? What is their agenda? What does seniority have to do with an unfunded school district? If they got rid of seniority they would still have an unfunded school district.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 8:15 pm
What an efficient group of people running a non-profit business? They take in about $1.5 million a year with about 85-90% going for their overhead like salaries, benefits, rent, office supplies etc. They really care about the kids right? Look at their IRS 990 tax forms on guidestar.org. Just look how many board members they have just to spend $1.5 million. I wouldn't take anything they have to say as valid based upon how they spend their money.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2013 9:37 pm
Whatever the proposals might be, they still support "Teacher Cleansing" by way of ageism and/or whatever other means. It also fomentis even more incapcitating prejudice against teachers and principals by directives of shareholders who also have a monetary interest in School Reform and who are from the outside of the Teaching Profession. It constitutes teacher abuse and obtuse unchecked power from outside with absolutely no input from teachers which ultimately results in students abuse. ,
Submitted by concerned parent (not verified) on April 11, 2013 9:42 pm
How fitting Donna Cooper with egg on her face again. She's an embarrassment and not ethical. I know PCCY is sorry they made that silly decision. There was a time when PCCY advocated for kids--the smoke has cleared this has nothing to do with kids. This is about inserting yourself into a debate that does not need you and co-opting the work of true community groups that called themselves the effective teaching campaign. I'm also over their false urgency--this is a once in a generation change--please 80% is already site selected, I support site selecting the rest but let's be clear it hasn't changed teacher turnover, experience rates in the lowest performing schools or anything else. Disgusting.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 12, 2013 2:47 pm
Pay cuts are coming. Bank on it.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 12, 2013 10:00 pm
This is put up or shut up time for The PFT. The very fact that Jordan is a part of this union busting group is beyond scary but not really surprising to me. It's now or never for the PFT. If we back down, there will be no PFT in 3 years, maybe even sooner.
Submitted by linda (not verified) on April 15, 2013 1:30 am
you really think so?...I think that they will wait and see how many teachers/staff retire and then perhaps change the pay scale for all NEW hires......that way any thing comming up hinges on who will choose to come in to the SDP....with very little benefits .....maybe even mimicking the charter school pay scales.... what are your thoughts? Linda K.

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