Articles tagged with teachers union

Riffs cause rift between RI union and district officials

1194985021415637292axe_peterm__svg_medI just love a good fuss. There’s something truly entertaining about adults frothing at the mouth and blowing an issue all out of proportion.

That seems to be the case in Providence, R.I., where the teachers union is all up in arms over the school system’s decision to send out dismissal notices to all 1,926 teachers in the city.

School officials say the notices make sense. As Superintendent Tom Brady told the Providence Journal, state law requires the district to notify teachers by March 1 if there’s the possibility that their employment status could change.

And, confronted with a potential $40 million budget deficit next year, “a dismissal letter to all teachers was necessary to give the mayor, the school board, and the district maximum flexibility to consider every cost savings option, including reductions in staff.”

That makes sense to me. It would be a tad difficult to balance the budget if you tell only 100 teachers that they might lose their jobs—and then you need to lay off 150.

It also makes sense because, if there’s any flexibility in state law and the teachers’ contract, the sweeping dismissal notice allows school officials to avoid the first-hired, first-fired phenomenon that so often surrounds teacher layoffs.

Why lose a promising young talent or hard-to-find science teacher when there are less effective teachers who can go on the chopping block?

I like the idea that teacher layoffs might actually be determined by the educational needs of students.

Naomi Dillon|March 3rd, 2011|Categories: Governance, Teachers, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , |

KIPP’s success in one city may be curtailed by demands of teachers union

I visited one of the KIPP charter school’s in Baltimore shortly after this last school year began— though, to be accurate, the school year never really ends for KIPP students and staff. 

Short for the Knowledge is Power Program, KIPP has also become shorthand for success, in spite of operating a model most would doom to failure.

After all, much of charter schools’ power and strength over traditional public schools is its flexibility and ability to circumvent many of the mandates (straight-jackets) that control the latter’s movements.

But KIPP schools, of which there are currently close to 70 with plans to open more in the future, resemble a large school district spread over the country; some even liken it to a franchise.

So how does it continue to be successful, despite its growth? The charter school chain has been the subject of numerous studies and an article, as I mentioned above, by yours truly.  

What I found, as others have noted, is that a large part of KIPP’s performance (roughly two-third’s of KIPP’s fifth-graders outperformed their local counterparts in state reading and math tests in 2007) comes from the long hours the staff and students put in.

Nationally, the average school day is 6.5 hours, with 180 days in a typical school year. In contrast, an average day at a KIPP school extends to nine hours or longer, with twice monthly Saturday sessions and only two months off during summer.

Naomi Dillon|July 6th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

As they move to layoff thousands, L.A. officials up the ante, aim to change labor law

The Los Angeles school board is considering a task worthy of Sisyphus. Some board members want to convince lawmakers to rewrite state laws that make it “virtually impossible to fire teachers.”

That’s the word from the Los Angeles Daily News, which reports that school officials say “they need to cull bad teachers from the ranks or students will suffer in the classroom.”

Good luck with that. A few years ago, there was a ballot initiative in California proposing to extend the time it takes a new teacher to earn tenure from two years to five years. The California Teachers Association rallied the troops and raised a multi-million-dollar war chest to kill that idea.

You don’t fool around with teachers’ job security.

But some members of the L.A. school board want to try. As they see it, the current budget crisis has focused public attention on education-and teacher layoffs have sparked discussion on teacher quality and about how seniority rather than competence determines which teachers stay and teach the children.

So now is the time to put teacher dismissal and tenure laws on the table for discussion. “It’s about weeding out people who shouldn’t be working with our kids,” board member Tamar Galatzan told the News.

I can’t argue with that. But it’s inevitable that such an effort will turn into a no-quarter-given political donnybrook. That’s a shame. There is room for a reasoned compromise.

Let’s face it: the school board has a point. State laws make it so tough and expensive to fire teachers that only 31 have been dismissed in California over the past five years. Just 31!

But I do worry that the solutions aired so far would swing the pendulum too much the other way. According to the News, board members want “a new evaluation method that would automatically fire teachers if they received two consecutive poor performance reviews.”

Here’s where I must side with the teachers union.

Naomi Dillon|April 23rd, 2009|Categories: Governance, Teachers, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |
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