Young teachers’ views on pay, unions and retention

A study by Learning Point Associates, The View from Generation Y, found that young teachers are more open to the idea of varying pay based on performance and responsibilities — but that they don’t consider performance pay to be the key to improving teacher quality and retention.

Researchers surveyed and conducted focus groups of teachers from around the country who were born after 1977. The teachers considered parental involvement, class size, learning opportunities and salary raises across the board to be more important factors than performance pay, according the report.

Another nuanced finding? That these young teachers value their unions’ preservation of tenure protections, but that they think the unions protect ineffective teachers.

To the many Gen Y-ers in Oakland and the East Bay: How do your views mesh with these findings? Do you agree with the corresponding policy recommendations?

How about Boomers? Gen X-ers?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • cranky teacher

    I love the young teachers and spend a lot of time with them. Many of them are absolute powerhouses, once they get their feet set.

    Sadly, I see many of even the best and most motivated drifting out of teaching in Oakland — or even the profession as a whole — after only 2-5 years. And this is not just the Teach for America shock troops, but those who came through year-long or master’s programs at Cal, Mills, CSUs, etc. I knew there would be some attrition, but the rate and pace is higher than I would have expected … and it is especially depressing when a teacher who has just blossomed into a superstar walks after only two or three years of being at the top of their game, instead of 20 or 30.

    From conversations, I believe young, smart teachers want two key things to keep them believing the long hours, emotional drain and modest pay are worth it longterm: 1) Autonomy to do what they think is best for the students. 2.) Consistent and intelligent support for what they’ve decided is best.

    Unfortunately, troubled bureaucracies like OUSD despise the first and are unable to provide the second.

    As for the tired tenure argument, I say let’s call everybody’s bluff: I’d give up tenure completely TODAY if society would agree to pay us like cops, prison guards or firemen.

    Tenure is just the bone the system threw so it could continue taking advantage of our idealism.

  • Katy Murphy

    Note: The young teachers surveyed did say they supported tenure protections. On the other hand, they were concerned about the union’s protection of teachers they considered ineffective.

    Do those two things necessarily go hand in hand?

  • UnionSupporter-But

    Katy: Something that has come up in a group of colleagues who are aspiring teachers in Masters degree programs in a local liberal college: does the intellect of the teachers matter in student performance? Or more specifically does a teacher with a lower intellect teach students at lower or less indepth levels?

    In general, the research we have done basically says that when our mothers, grandmothers for some of us, worked outside the home, those with the highest IQs went into nursing and teaching. They brought intellectual vigor into the profession. Today, with job opportunities for women expanding across all sectors of the economy, it is not always the brightest that go into teaching. Many teaching candidates have varying degrees of intellect and disabilities; several of whom have been given waivers on the CSET or CBEST exams. It could be that in planning a family they want a similar schedule to their children, they like students and want to spend time with them, or they want a better profession than their parents.

    The majority of teachers with high intellectually and organizational abilities do not stay in teaching but parlay their experience into corporate training, consulting, curriculum development or school administration. Studies of teachers from the 1970s show that teachers had an average IQ of about 140 plus or minus five points on average, whereas today’s teachers have an average IQ of about 110 plus or minus five points on average. In my teaching program it is almost heresy to talk about the IQ difference. Yet, in our classroom observations and student teaching we are finding that the teachers who are able to reach ALL students, rather than the majority of students are also the ones with the higher IQs.

    I hear OUSD refer frequently to data driven policies; but what if the data said that students achieve at higher levels, learn the material more deeply and are able to cross utilize subject matter when the teachers have higher IQs? Would we use the data if it were politically incorrect?

    Over and over on your blog participants have mentioned that the powerhouses, engaging teachers, high level young teachers, and the like move on to other positions. Would we be willing to have open and honest communications if it involved a politically charged subject such as IQ?



  • cranky teacher

    Katy, as I’ve written about on here before, the key to getting rid of bad or even abusive teachers is consistent and real evaluations by administrators.

    Tenure protects the right of teachers to be informed of their shortcomings and a timeline and process for rectifing them, if they can, before they are released.

    Unfortunately, the reality in many (most?) public schools is that evaluations are rare and, when they are done, are based on cursory classroom visits where teacher’s can put on a dog&pony show for 15-30 minutes.

    In such a situation, without a meaningful paper trail of review, I think it is a fair fear of teachers that if they gave up tenure protection they could have a decade of work developing curriculum and relationships at a school site destroyed instantly because they pissed off the wrong administrator — who may have only been there a few months! We have all seen enough tinpot dictators breeze in and out to be concerned.

    Since most school administrators are so completely overwhelmed by the demands of the job — and with from 15-50 reporting supervisees per evaluator — they can’t actually document lousy teaching, they go to Plan B: Simply try to slyly export or harass the most obviously terrible teachers out of the school.

    Meanwhile, there is always another school desperate to fill a spot who will hire/place even these extreme cases, since there is no paper trail of their flaws. This is also a huge equity issue: Poorer schools often receive these losers from schools with more active parent communities and more savvy/connected principals.

    This is how one of my kids’, who happens to be at low-income school, recently spent three months in the class of a madwoman who had been at four schools in four years and was only “put on extended leave” when she grabbed and humliated a child in front of the class.

    She is probably teaching somewhere else now, since she clearly was terrified to find a new career. This is AWFUL. But do I blame the union for that? No. The woman in question had not had an evaluation from this (non-Oakland) district in years, despite being run out of her previous gigs in the SAME district by irate parents. The district wasn’t worried about the union — they were worried about a wrongful-termination lawsuit. She could have claimed racism, agism, etc., because the district NEVER ESTABLISHED WHAT EVERYBODY KNEW — that she sucked.

    And when she left the district, there is no system I can see that would inform prospective school employers that she had a history of actually hurting and verbally abusing young children. She may be in OUSD now, for all I know.

    Can you imagine: A teacher who was INFAMOUS throughout four schools, yet no district administrator had evaluated her in YEARS?!? And this is the union’s fault? Why? Let’s flip the script: Recently, Oakland PD kept on the detective who bungled the Black Muslim Bakery murder case so badly. Surely his union demanded the police force document his failings — was that wrong of them? Nobody mentions it. Nobody reported that the union protected a bad cop.

    You have to hold the Districts responsible for lousy teachers:

    — they negotiated the contracts.
    — they have fallen down on carrying out their evaluation obligations.
    — they can’t maintain administrative continuity; turnover of school site administrators is atrocious.
    — they are incapable of systemic change.

    Here’s some suggestion from the trenches:
    — Train, pay (by giving prep time) and empower department chairs as true middle management who have a hand in evaluations. This would create some tensions, sure, but it would deputize a whole new cadre of professionals to carry the currently untenable supervisor/supervisee ratios.
    — Develop systematic ways to gather student and parent reviews of teachers as part of the evaluation process, then negotiate these into a fair contract. Nobody knows better what goes on in the rooms than the students and parents and their insight is only now used as “hearsay” — which itself is unfair to teachers who can never hear or respond what parents are telling the principals.

    Finally, I will again point out that SCHOOLS THAT DON’T EVER HAVE ENOUGH CREDENTIALED TEACHERS like many of our flatland middle schools don’t tend to be too picky. The district is trying to keep warm-bodied adults in the room and is perfectly willing to let some nutty survivor hold down the fort in some of these rooms for another ten years. Again, this is the union’s fault?

    Well, in a way, yes, I guess: The union has not been fierce ENOUGH to win teacher’s the kind of pay and work environment which would stanch turnover.

  • cranky teacher

    Union-supporter but, can you tell me where you’re getting these numbers about teacher IQs from? Seems your whole argument hinges on them.

    The numbers seem extreme and don’t match my experience of teachers then and now.

    140 is VERY high and 110 seems VERY low.

    Personally, I believe intelligence is just ONE Of the many factors which make a successful K-12 teacher, and perhaps not even the most important one.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: I was struck by your last comment in #1 above. Public School Teachers are not regarded as being important like Police or Fireman. You will never get the pay and benefits of public safety employees. In many ways this is a reflection of the low regard the population has for the public school students and the way the schools are run nowadays. Richmond High School’s gangrape/gangbang is the type of publicity (and I’m referring to the school’s perceived role in this happening) that reinforces these perception. Public Schools are blackboard jungles.

    All this is wrong and terrible (that this is happening not that the perception isn’t to the point).

    The terrible danger in letting the public schools reach such a state is that the public schools are a vital part in keeping this society viable – the society I thought we had when I was growing up. Our public school system used to be and is supposed to be the engine of social mobility. This country is not supposed to be a place where (like India) your role in life is fixed by the Caste you are born into.

    This is what we have done with all our wonderful so called “freedoms”. We have given the proletariat their “freedom” (to be how they are) and their own schools to go with it, and they can wallow in their freedom in perfect comfort. Not a discouraging word is said to them. Until they try to get a job.

    We need to change all this. Turn the schools over to the military is we have to. At least offer the option. I guess that’s why we have the AI (Chavez’) Charter School.

    Brave New World.

  • UnionSupporter-But

    Cranky Teacher: The IQ of teachers has been studied most in the area of language arts. To increase reading scores among students of color, class size does NOT matter as much as a well-spoken, proper English speaking, high IQ teacher of any color or ethnicity.

    Some of the work supporting higher IQ teachers and academic proficiency are

    University of Chicago, Pritchard 1999, Reducing Class Size, What We Know

    EFRC Forum 11/19/2004 (various studies sited in this paper)

    The Emergence and Development of Pre-service Teacher’s Professional Belief System About Reading Instruction, University of Iowa 2009

    Handbook of Human Intelligence – reading scores shot up 38 – 54 points with a High IQ Teacher

    The Economics of Teacher Quality, Darius Lakdowalla, 2006, University of Chicago

    This is a start. I will provide more documentation at your request. Specifically though, my question was, why can’t we discuss teacher IQ – student outcome in a forum? It seems as though, even in your tone, that this is not an acceptable discussion and that all sources must be sited, yet for politically correct statements we all accept the word of the poster.

  • Young Teacher

    I’m a young teacher still in my first five years. I don’t support performance pay, because I haven’t heard any proposed method of assessment that seems remotely fair. Instead, I strongly support major salary increases. What if we stopped throwing money at contractors, consultants, and textbook companies, and redirected it into salaries? If Oakland’s teachers began at $60k instead of less than $40, I believe that we would no longer struggle to attract and retain excellent teachers.

    I love my students, and I love to teach, but I am constantly aware that I could make much more money at a much easier job. As long as teaching requires economic sacrifice, good new teachers like me will leave the profession before they become the good, experienced teachers our schools need.

  • MDUSDMom

    We are on our 3rd year with a teacher who is incompetent. The students, parents, teachers, administrators, the superintendent and the board all know this, as does the school that passed her to us and the schools in the district who are hoping she is not passed to them. This IS the fault of the union. If you want to be treated as a professional start acting like one. Put yourself in a position to be evaluated like every other non-union employee whether they make minimum wage or millions in bonuses. I have never seen such a consistent group of whiners. Kids are horrible, my class is too big, I’m too busy, I grade papers at home, I’m not paid enough, I don’t get the benefits I think I deserve, and the list goes on. That is why you are not viewed as professionals. Unions create mediocrity, they protect the weakest link, they obstruct change and innovation, they put the needs of the teachers above all else even if detrimental to the students (that is their job.) I personally would love to see them go or step up and fix the educational system, they are the only ones that currently have the power to do so.

  • Gordon Danning

    The tenure/no tenure question is a bit of a false dichotomy. In California, “tenure” for teachers simply means that teachers can be dismissed only for “cause.” In contrast, before being granted tenure, a teacher can be dismissed for “any reason or no reason.” So, when people say, “get rid of tenure,” they are advocating giving schools the power to dismiss any teacher at the end of the year for any reason at all. Under such a system, what teacher would dare criticize an incompetent principal, or stand up to a head janitor who tries to decree that all teachers must vacate the school at 4:30 pm (as was the case at my school recently)?

    It should certainly be easier to remove truly incompetent teachers from the classroom, but that can be done without eliminating the protections afforded by tenure. The way to do that is to refine the definition of “cause,” or simply to spend the money needed to speed up the dismissal process.

  • David

    MDUSDMom: did the union make the school board cut/ruin -elementary and middle school Arts program(s) in your district?

    “Unions create mediocrity, they protect the weakest link, they obstruct change and innovation, they put the needs of the teachers above all else even if detrimental to the students (that is their job.) I personally would love to see them go or step up and fix the educational system, they are the only ones that currently have the power to do so.”

    Do you really believe the above comment?

    Unions have very little power to effect systematic change.

    Teacher’s unions are there to protect the membership – period.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Until taxpayers (like me) believe that we will get some returns on our money, we as a nation will continue to underfund public education. We will take our money and pay for tutors, private school and rent in better areas in order to provide a decent future for our children. Unfortunately, as Nextset says, we’ll let the inner city rot from the inside. We won’t pay all teachers more because we know much of that money is wasted on poor teachers, poor administration and poor systems.

    We don’t believe the state or its school systems will spend our money wisely and so we will keep our money.

    It is sad that teachers are not respected as much as they used to be. It is sad that they are so underpaid as a profession. However, part of the problem is this INSANE resistance to measuring whether they are providing what our children need. I’m not talking test scores, but something. I could care less about performance pay, I just want performance. If you can get there without performance bonuses, fine by me.

    Over the years, I’ve often heard former teachers complain of working their arses off getting results for kids while some lazy colleague was paid more next door, doing nothing. Given I’ve heard that about school districts across the nation, I doubt the blame is on the evaluation system. Pay is based on time served and not results. That’s just plain crazy! As a parent, I don’t care at all how much “time served” you have if it doesn’t translate into more effective teaching.

    Teaching is a hard job. Most of us wouldn’t do it. We are appreciative of the sacrifices that dedicated teachers make every day. Some of us feel guilty that these great teachers aren’t compensated better. BUT, if these systems can’t find a way to separate these heros from the zeros, we will hold our hand as the collection plate is passed around. We believe in unionism, but think protecting poor teaching is DISGUSTING. Somehow, there has got to be a better way.

    We need to find a way to pay good teachers more just like any organization does with its valued employees. But, we also need to find a way to rid ourselves of folks where even their colleagues know they are doing a disservice to students and their profession (that goes for administrators and support staff as well).

  • cranky teacher

    None of you responded directly to my basic claim, which Danning backs up: Teachers have no more protection than any other union-shop employee.

    In fact, less. I’m still waiting for somebody to list another civil job where you are expected to work significant unpaid overtime.

    I don’t care if you call us whiners, MDUSD Mom, but you need to know that the teacher’s work conditions are the child’s learning conditions. They are directly linked.

    You guys are painting a picture of teachers’ unions as if they are so frikkin’ powerful. If that were the case, Oakland teachers wouldn’t be currently making the same wages as 12 years ago!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • TheTruthHurts

    It’s a long read, you’re not going to like the content, but sometimes that’s how you learn. http://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/who-killed-california

    BTW, I don’t agree with everything in this article, but it is clearly food for thought and the way many voters think.

    An excerpt:
    “The most egregiously coddled of the state’s favored constituencies are California’s public labor unions. This is partly the result of their bloated ranks: The percentage of unionized public employees in California is 20% higher than the national average. Even more important, though, is the unions’ outsized influence. Awarded collective bargaining rights with nearly every sector of government during the 1960s and ’70s, the unions subsequently exploded into a political force to be reckoned with and a primary cause of California’s fiscal hemophilia.

    Perhaps the most vexing labor organizations are the teachers’ unions. These groups were the driving force behind Proposition 98, locking in mandatory spending on public education without regard to any other fiscal considerations. But that’s only where their transgressions begin. In 1992, the California Teachers’ Association — by far the most powerful teachers’ union in the state — blocked a ballot initiative to promote school choice in the Golden State by physically intimidating petition-signers and allegedly placing false names on the petitions. When asked about his union’s opposition to the measure, the CTA president responded: “There are some proposals that are so evil that they should never even be presented to the voters.” And in 2000, when testing results revealed that two-thirds of Los Angeles public schools were ranked as failures, the president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles announced that his union would accept a proposal for merit pay only on “a cold day in hell.”

    The result of the teachers’ flight from responsibility has been unadulterated dysfunction.”

  • cranky teacher

    This article is just a pretty by-the-numbers volley in the ideological wars, The Truth Hurts. OF COURSE unions are against vouchers and charters, which weaken the negotiating power of the union.

    The larger issue for California’s “fiscal hemophilia” is that the revenue stream is so dependent on the foamy froth of capitalist booms and so vulnerable to the inevitables dips and plunges: We have become hugely dependent on taxing “windfall” profits as the tax burden keeps shifting away from corporations and property tax toward income and investment taxes. Just a couple years ago, we were a state flush with surpluses.

    As for merit pay, well, most of us haven’t seen any proposal that isn’t linked to test scores, which teachers know is ridiculously problematic.

    Last I checked, this is a democracy not a “unionocracy.” If public officials made deals which were untenable, arent’t they to blame?

    One irony of all this is that the majority of teachers, who work their butt off to do this job, would LOVE it if the districts could get rid of the flakes, nuts and burn-outs who give us a bad rep. The fact that we STILL don’t support the erasure of tenure or merit pay proposals should tell you this is a little more complicated than just human self-interest.

  • Debora

    Cranky Teacher and those who say teachers work hard. No one is agruing saying that the majority of the teachers don’t work hard. But too many Oakland students don’t read, don’t write and cannot compute math.

    We can blame it on parents, society, poverty, race, religion, the student’s weight, how much sleep they get, tv they watch, or any other things.

    However, if you work 12 hours to prepare a terrific lesson unit on plant life cycles, the students enjoy the lesson, they learn about plants, they can talk about plants, they can measure the height of plants and they come out of second grade not reading, all of that other work doesn’t matter. A second grade student needs to read, because when they get to third grade we are no longer teaching them to read but expecting them to be able to read to learn.

    I see and I hear many, many teachers doing great things in their classrooms, but students need to read. They can’t fill out a job application, can’t advance in social studies, science or even math word problems if they can’t read.

    So yes, a second grade teacher who does not teach EVERY CHILD in her or his class to read has not done their job for the year. No excuses. A child who leaves second grade and cannot add and subtract three digit numbers has not advanced properly. The second grade teacher who let any student move on without learning the math does not deserve a giant raise, even if they spent every weekend of the year writing exciting lesson plans.

    A lot of people spend a lot of time working hard on things that don’t mean anything without the foundation. A firefighter with a perfect fire truck is of no use if the hose leaks. Even if the firefighter spent 15 hours polishing and examining the truck.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Cranky, I really appreciate your post. It is complicated. I agree. And yes, I agree, how we’ve chosen to fund state government is a huge problem and the electorate and its representatives hold much of the responsibility.

    However, you are clearly not naive, but seem to be dismissing serious rational concerns as not relevant. First, labelling something a “by-the-numbers” volley doesn’t weaken the argument, but shows a lack of willingness to engage the argument. People who hold these views have reasons and addressing those reasons is the same respect that should be given as when others dismiss union-activity as solely self-serving.

    Second, it is interesting however that there is no mention of what is good for parents/students/communities in why you think unions are against vouchers or charters. That is also what many parents believe as well and it doesn’t address the underlying considerations of that policy choice which has led to endless debate on this blog. Instead of assuming that unions are only making arguments against charters for self-serving reasons, I try to listen to the arguments and judge the independently.

    Third, clarifying that we don’t live in a “unioncracy” I don’t believe is a genuine response (IMHO). Again, you’re not naive. To dismiss the influence of interest groups, including unions with hundreds of thousands of members is simply not credible and I expect more of you. Next you’ll tell me because rap doesn’t control kids minds, it makes no difference what kids listen to or who they hang out with. Just not credible.

    Lastly, I don’t understand tenure, but it’s because I’ve worked in an entirely different environment. In that environment, income security is more important than job security. Income security comes from being good at what you do and having what you do be valued by society. If either of these things don’t apply, you will have trouble. However, if they don’t, if one employer doesn’t like you, it doesn’t impact your income security. That is clearly a competitive model which may not work in education, but works in many other industries in terms of productivity income stability.

    I tend to believe if you give something to folks for free, they don’t value it. I believe that is rampant in the public sector everywhere and tenure sounds like an example of it to me. Again, I’m not the expert.

    From what I hear from former teachers, it is simply not credible that unions (in general) seek to rid their profession of poor performers or “mishires.” This “complicated” issue is never even addressed as a goal is what I hear. I wouldn’t know, but that’s what they tell me. They tell me that although contracts and unions do a decent job of fighting bias and abuse against teachers, those same protections are afforded when there is no bias and the person simply needs to make a different career choice and move on. That sounds counterproductive, expensive and wasteful of funds that might go to compensation of those working their butts off.

    I have never heard of any organization, including police and fire, that removes poor performers as infrequently as school districts. Over time that has got to have an impact.

  • former Oaklander

    I’m a Gen Xer and I think the Gen Y teachers are right on.

    Also, I don’t think that protection of tenure generally and protection of ineffective teachers is necessarily the same thing. I believe that many school districts that operate under the same California teacher tenure laws have teachers’ unions that work constructively with their respective Districts to help transition ineffective teachers to other roles if they cannot make necessary improvements.

    In contrast, OEA hires lawyers to defend ineffective teachers in a very aggressive manner, as if they are criminal defendants who deserve every single possible defense, rather than ineffective teachers who are in the wrong job and hurting students. This does not serve the teachers who are good or great and it certainly doesn’t serve the students. It certainly wastes a LOT of money that should be going to serve students, not work against their interests. It is this practice that turns off good and great teachers, regardless of their age.

  • cranky teacher

    Sorry if I seem dismissive of arguments. I’m just frustrated because education seems particularly prone to manipulation and argument by folks very removed from the reality — and who often have ideological and even commercial motivations which they hide, especially as related to privatization and selling products and services to the education system, as well as racism and classism.

    Here’s a dose of reality: I’ve been teaching for about six years. Roughly 250 direct instruction minutes a day. 180 days a year. 6 x 250 x 180 = 270,000 minutes.

    Out of that time, administrators have observed me teach LESS THAN TWO HOURS total. I’ve taught in four departments in two schools and never had a department chair observe my teaching. When I talk to other teachers, these are the NORMS.

    That’s why I keep harping on evaluation.

    Debora: I hear you — results matter, not just long hours and good intentions. However, I would point out that many of the students that drop out of high school CAN read, write and do basic math.

  • New Teacher

    I am currently a third year teacher in OUSD, and I generally agree with the findings of the study.

    Regarding tenure: I have seen both sides of the equation at my school. On the one hand, my first year there was a veteran teacher at my school who was no good (obvious even to a newbie such as myself). The principal tried to fire her. In response, the union hired a lawyer and aggressively defended the teacher, who was transferred to another school and is still teaching in OUSD (echoing MDUSD Mom’s concerns). On the other hand,I observed that same principal unjustly harass two of my colleagues, and give them pink slips. They did not have tenure, so she did not have to provide any sort of reason. In fact,she had given them both positive evaluations throughout the year, and then fired them without warning for political reasons. Fantastic teachers, both. This decision was subsequently overturned when the principal herself was removed from the school. I believe that we need to find some middle ground between “firing without cause” and aggressively protecting bad teachers. But until we do, and until the day that OUSD ensures a high quality principal is in place at every school, tenure is a necessary protection.

  • Cranky Teacher

    New Teacher, thanks for the insight.

    I wonder if the bad teacher had been properly evaluated in the past?

  • Cranky Teacher

    The Truth Hurts: I just re-read your last comment.

    — Are you saying the unions should evaluate the teachers they represent? This is a radical idea, and one I’ve never heard before. Maybe it would be good, but man, that is not even on the table. Or are you saying they should just believe the district? The “word on the street”? Hey, there are some unlikeable teachers who are actually quite good — this shouldn’t become a popularity contest.

    — I don’t know much about cop unions, but I do know that cops are famously secure; you have to kill somebody in front of a bunch of videocameras to even get fired.

    By the way, I have seen SEVERAL tenured teachers fired or pushed into early retirement when a principal wanted to make the effort to document their shortcomings in a serious manner — i.e., with student and parent interviews, pouncing on a particularly egregious quote, etc.

    The real problem is mediocrity — mostly born of trying to do a 60-hour-a-week job in 37.5 hours a week. This is NOT whining, it is simply a fact: Teachers spend 30 hours a week with students, 3-4 more in mandatory meetings and then are supposed to do all their prep, grading, parent contact and managing the room in the other 3-5 hours A WEEK.

    A few years back, Berkeley Unified teachers tried to “work-to-rule” and stick to the actual hours of the contract and it broke down after a few weeks — the teachers simply couldn’t stomach short-changing the students.

  • Debora

    Cranky: While it may be true that some dropouts can read and write the following studies show that one of, if not the most predictive identifier for drop out is early low achievement in school.


    Poor school performance. An individual’s school experiences have been found to have a major impact on the likelihood that he or she will graduate. School performance and engagement with school are two of the primary experiences. Poor academic performance is one of the most consistent predictors of dropout, whether measured through grades, test scores, or course failure (Alexander, Entwisle, & Kabbani, 2001; Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992; Rumberger, 2001; Wagner et al., 1993). It has been found to impact dropout starting in the 1st grade (Alexander et al., 2001) and continuing throughout elementary school (Lloyd, 1978), into middle (Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Cairns et al., 1989; Gleason & Dynarski, 2002; Ingels, Curtin, Kaufman, Alt, & Chen, 2002), and on into high school (Alexander et al., 2001; Ekstrom et al., 1986; Elliott & Voss, 1974; Gleason & Dynarski, 2002).

    Other evidence that poor school performance is a major factor in leaving school early comes from dropouts themselves. Poor academic performance was given as one of the major reasons that dropouts left school before graduation in several surveys (Bridgeland, Dilulio, & Morison, 2006; Ekstrom et al., 1986; Jordan et. al., 1994). “Got poor grades” (Ekstrom et al., 1986), “was failing in school” (Bridgeland et al., 2006; Jordan et. al., 1994), or “couldn’t keep up with schoolwork”(Jordan et al., 1994) were reported by at least one-third of dropouts surveyed as primary reasons for dropping out in three surveys.

    Another aspect of school performance that is related to achievement but a major factor on its own, is being retained and having to repeat a grade (Alexander et al., 2001; Cairns et al., 1989; Janosz, Le Blanc, Boulerice, & Tremblay, 1997; Rumberger, 2001; Wagner et al., 1993). As for low achievement, beginning in 1st grade, retention at any grade level has been found to impact the chances that a student will drop out. What makes retention so powerful is that its effects are additive, where multiple retentions dramatically increase the odds that a student will drop out (Alexander et al., 2001; Cairns et al., 1989; Gleason & Dynarski, 2002).

    A student who drops out of high school can expect to earn one-half of the salary of a high school graduate and just over one-quarter that of a college graduate. To support increases in teacher pay, we need an increase in the tax base. This is why Oakland teachers are paid less than say, Piedmont or San Ramon Valley School District – not because of the quality of the teachers – although that may be part of it – it is the tax base issue. The state pumps the same amount of money into students in these areas as Oakland (maybe a little less) but they have the tax base to support their student population and the teachers who educate them.

    In speaking to some parents earlier this weekend to parents of students in Piedmont here are some differences I heard in parent-teacher relationships and behavior: All teachers are required to respond to emails from parents within two school days of receipt. Teachers are required to have all assessments and test scores of their students available at all parent-teacher contacts (not just semi-annual parent teacher conferences) and all teachers must have a written plan for student improvement when the student is at the “Basic” level or below.

    My experience with my own child is that not one of her five elementary school teachers in Oakland has done those three things – not even one year. We have had two teachers who had the assessments and scores – none of the five were willing to respond to emails and only the two mentioned above even respond with a written communication when a written communication is sent to them (kindergarten and first grade teachers).

    For an increase in pay would OUSD teachers be willing to be held to the same standard?

  • Nextset

    Debora: Something in your post above prompted me to respond. What we are seeing in the dropout stats you cite is undiagnosed and diagnosed mental illness and personality disorders, some of which is congenital.

    I deal with criminals and the mentally ill (among a lot of other things). Often we have probation reports, psych reports, social worker reports and access to family history data.

    Yes they were retained in school, yes they were sent to alternative or special schools, yes they have histories of early psych evaluations for such things as running away, promiscuity, stealing, lying (pathological kind), firesetting, bedwetting, animal cruelty (McDonalds Triad?). This is at the extreme edge of the group. Typically we have underclass behavior from underclass genetic line. That doesn’t mean the parent doesn’t love the kid although sometimes they don’t. What all this does mean is that there is something very (medically/genetically/culturally) wrong with the family line. On occasion it just something sort of wrong with the line and the appearance on the family tree of disfunction is not pervasive but sporadic (say, one in 4 of each family grouping).

    The point I am trying to make is that it is not the school that did this – even if the school didn’t help the problem. Many people used the same schools at the same time and they didn’t turn out this bad.

    Bad schools are not “bad” because of the earth they sit on. They are bad because of the people who go there. And people are not created equal. Some of them are Bi-Polar, subject to addiction or borderline personality, of low IQ, the list goes on. A lot of people have a lot of atypical problems. The schools are never set up to detect and manage physical or mental abnormalities early. And part of the reason is this obsession with “freedom” and comfort. The public schools can hardly tell people what seat to sit in anymore.

    What I do blame the public schools for is not segregating the students and schools by ability and performance so the presence of discipline and ability impaired people doesn’t drag down the education of those who do not have these problems. That’s why families flee for charter or private schools and even to other cities.

    Any normal school that tolerates the presence of a child with a conduct disorder who is 3rd generation anti-social personalty disorder is not much of a school at all. And you shouldn’t feel regret when such a child is truant or drops out. THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DROP OUT.

    The stats above don’t consider this. Some students are supposed to fail. They are biologically programmed for it. Later in life if they live and their disorder settles they might do something with adult school. Many of them will be dead by 30. Behavioral Science is getting to the point where we can identify these people by 14. If you want to “save” them you need to do so away from normal kids – do it at alternative schools.

  • Debora

    Nextset: Actually this was the group of students not in the category you mentioned. In this report the kinds of personality disorders and mental illness you addressed is discussed in depth and you are right they talk about the advantages of segregating these students.

    Yes, I am dealing with that issue now. I have a great kid who was finally catching up. Another student with two incarcerated parents being raised by two naive grandparents who has stolen from other students, the school and the teacher (caught with stolen items), used scissors as a weapon in the classroom and has been in three fights in the last moth is pulling the student who is finally on track in the other direction. OUSD does nothing to protect other students from this student. I wonder how many drop outs we could avoid by taking violent, anti-social students out of mainstream classrooms. Of course they should be given an opportunity to redeem themselves, but when they use weapons, steal almost daily and beat up other students it is time to remove them from the classroom.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Unions evaluating teachers is not a bad idea if they had a decent standard and it wasn’t such a conflict of interest.

    Given that California as a state has few teachers actually fired each year, I find it hard to believe you know several, but of course “pushed-into retirement” is pretty vague and might be a much larger number.

    I hear you on mediocrity, but that is not only an Oakland problem. That’s a nationwide epidemic. Teaching has never been 38 hours a week and everyone knows it. I’ve seen kids that got 35 or so hours from their teacher. It was horrible. Mediocrity is clearly the larger problem, but ought we not address that head on instead of dancing around it?

    I mean, “the truth hurts,” but let’s deal with it.

  • Nextset

    Debora: They should not be given the opportunity to redeem themselves. These people are dangerous and the disorder we speak of here is not usually subject to remission. I am referring to children with a full fledged conduct disorder (precursor to ASPD). It’s not just a matter of being bad or reactive. They have dead consciences. They can’t help the way they don’t feel. They are not going to grow a conscience. When you add the hormonal issues of puberty on top of this and throw in a little drugs and alcohol you have the Richmond Gang rape or worse. “Schools” that don’t identify and segregate these people put a wolves among their sheep.

    Private schools don’t usually do this (enable the psych patients) because they actually expell students for insubordination much less truancy and violence.

    To the extent some commentators bemoan the fact that these damaged & dangerous people “drop out” they do not understand the concept of expelling waste.

    I believe it’s wrong to mark down a teacher or an administrator because these kids aren’t being retained. They are supposed to drop out/be expelled.

    We are not talking about a high number of people but they can wreck havoc way beyond their numbers and can carry a following of other marginal students with them.

    Public schools need to identify those “students” who belong in locked psych facilities (often called juvenile hall) or locked down schools (called reform schools, special schools, etc – they do exist). While kicking these kids to the curb they can be referred to those facilities which are designed to contain them. They cannot be safely managed in open public schools.

  • http://oaklandnorth.net/education/ lrmongeau

    Hi all,

    Oakland North reporter here –

    I think Katy’s question about whether young teachers in Oakland feel differently about tying pay to performance, the way this study has said Gen Y teachers do in general, is very interesting.

    I’m also curious how that would look. Young Teacher says that he/she hasn’t heard of anything that would work. Have any of you heard of a possible solution?

  • A Sub

    I’m a Substitute. (Not by choice but underfunding left me with no job opportunities after completing my credential this past June) I work in an East Bay School District. I have witnessed principals working hard to fire someone or create working conditions that make a classroom unbearable. As a sub I get the opportunity to see the best and worst classroom in the district in the highest and lowest socioeconomic areas. It is an opportunity that has been educational and enlightening.

    In my student teaching in this district I worked under a teacher that has no support from the administration. Last year she had been assigned the students with the worst behavioral problems in the school. Daily there were disruptions and strife between the teacher and students. The solution she used was to send the students away or to “demote” them to a lower grade for the day. She constantly demeaned the students and was sarcastic when speaking to students. The principal was almost never on site during the time I was there. While the principal complained that students were sent from the room, nothing was ever done to change the situation. The principal came in once during a prearranged time to observe and evaluate my “Master” teacher, but the visit was so short that it was irrelevant. Plus I happened to be teaching at the time so I’m not sure how an evaluation could have taken place. Perhaps instead of just trying to force this teacher out by giving her the “worst” students (her words not mine), real evaluations could take place and if not dismissal then retraining.

    This year, as a sub, I worked in a classroom where the teacher had called out but left no plans for the days I was there. I had to improvise all of the first day. Luckily I’m good at that but my level of preparedness or lack there of was evident to the students and their behavior reflected this. That night, instead of focusing on my Masters homework, I planned lessons for a classroom that wasn’t mine. The principal appreciated my efforts and I felt her presence on the campus. Once again I could tell that the administration did not support a teacher but instead of creating poor working conditions for this out of touch instructor, the principal was documenting every infraction and even asked me to document the lack of lesson plans and general disorganization of the classroom. I am sure that soon this teacher will be asked to retire and I wish that more principals would follow her example.

    When I worked my student teaching supervisors would visit every other week to watch me teach and interact with students. They could show up at anytime and make decisions about my effectiveness as a teacher. Principals have the same power and I wish they would use their time to drop in at unexpected moments to inspect their staff. Maybe if more teachers were truly evaluated and held to best practice, this “young” teacher would be able to find a job next school year.