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Should layoff rules be rewritten?

I’ve been catching up on education news today, after enjoying the holidays in my snowy hometown.

I came across two stories from last week that made me wonder how school districts will proceed with layoffs after the federal stimulus funds dry up (a cheery thought for the New Year).

One was an AP story about a study by the University of Washington’s Center for Education Data & Research. Researchers concluded that seniority-based layoff policies were likely to have negative consequences for students.

In the report, they compared two hypothetical scenarios: In the first, 1,717 (mostly junior) teachers in Washington state who received pink slips in 2008-09 lost their jobs. In the second, teachers with the lowest effectiveness ratings were let go instead. (Some teachers appeared on both lists.) The researchers projected that after the seniority-based layoffs, Washington students would  fall 2.5- to 3.5 months behind where they would be if the lowest-rated teachers were removed, AP reported.

Researchers also noted that seniority-based systems lead to the layoffs of more teachers than would be necessary if effectiveness was considered. Since the salaries of newer teachers are significantly below average, school districts need to lay off more of them to reach a certain level of savings, the center found.

But the report acknowledges the volatility of the “value-added” method, which rates a teacher’s effectiveness based on the progress her students make during the course of a school year. Those year-to-year rating swings can be stabilized by averaging multiple years of data, but that’s not possible with newer teachers — those who are most likely to receive pink slips in the seniority-based system.

A footnote on page 29 explains that the method is limited, particularly for new teachers, but it looks like they received ratings in this report anyway.

Speaking of layoffs, experience and instability: The LA Times ran a story about a low-performing school in Watts that lost more than half of its teachers — mostly, newbies — in a 2009 round of seniority-based layoffs. The more experienced teachers who replaced them happened to have higher effectiveness ratings, the Times reported. That year, the struggling Markham Middle School (which had undergone just about every popular reform possible) finally started showing academic progress:

(Principal) Sullivan’s first year was focused on restoring order, and test scores actually fell. That summer the school suffered what appeared to be another grievous blow: More than half of the teachers were laid off, based on their low seniority, and many were replaced by more experienced instructors from around the district.

Undaunted, Sullivan and his largely new team of teachers tried many of the reforms that had been attempted before at Markham: reopening the parents’ center, breaking the school into smaller learning groups and continuing intensive teacher training.

This time, the results were different: Markham had the fastest rate of student progress among district middle schools last year, The Times’ analysis found.

Apparently, the layoffs had an upside. Many of the replacement teachers Sullivan picked from the district’s hiring pool proved more effective than their predecessors.

Twenty-one teachers who were laid off in 2009 ranked, on average, in the bottom fifth among district teachers in raising students’ English scores and in the bottom third in boosting math scores. They were replaced by teachers whose effectiveness was close to average in both subjects.

In addition, many of the low-performing teachers who survived the layoffs got significantly better, jumping to near average effectiveness compared to their peers districtwide.

But then layoffs struck again this year, the Times reported, and Sullivan — the ninth principal in 20 years — split. So no happy ending for Markham, at least yet.

Layoffs in OUSD: Oakland Unified has moved teachers from school to school for budget reasons, but the district has avoided a general layoff of tenured K-12 teachers in recent years, partly because of its high teacher attrition rate. (The dismissal of new teachers without tenure, known as “non re-election,” is a separate issue that is not necessarily tied to the budget.) Who knows what this year will bring.

What do you think about the Center for Education Data & Research findings? The report raised some interesting economic and staffing issues associated with seniority policies. On the flip side, if seniority protections were removed, I wonder if school districts would be permitted to target the highest-paid employees, regardless of their perceived effectiveness, to minimize the number of necessary layoffs.

Some of the researchers at a UC Berkeley forum this fall had serious concerns about the reliability and accuracy of  “value-added” ratings. But some said the model had potential for identifying the extremes — the most effective and least effective teachers in a given school system.

Do you think the layoff rules should — or will — be revised in your district? How would you rewrite them?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Steven Weinberg

    The LA Times has printed a very misleading article about teacher quality today. The article begins with the statement “Years-long efforts to improve Markham Middle School in Watts included changing the curriculum, reducing class sizes and requiring uniforms. But real progress occurred when more effective teachers were brought in,” implying that teachers were replaced based on some measure of their effectiveness. In fact, the change in the school teaching force was based entirely on district lay-offs and seniority.
    The Times is running a series of articles based on its own “value-added” analysis which purports to show the effect that individual teachers have on the test score changes of their students. The paper has stirred considerable controversy after it published a list of thousands of LA teachers and their “effectiveness” scores. This article was designed to show the importance of looking at teacher effectiveness in this way, but if one takes its findings seriously, it would support the current system of seniority in layoffs because when that system was applied test scores went up.
    Actually the article shows the intellectual bankruptcy of “value-added” analysis based entirely on test scores. Look at these paragraphs from the article:
    “Apparently, the layoffs had an upside. Many of the replacement teachers Sullivan picked from the district’s hiring pool proved more effective than their predecessors.
    “Twenty-one teachers who were laid off in 2009 ranked, on average, in the bottom fifth among district teachers in raising students’ English scores and in the bottom third in boosting math scores. They were replaced by teachers whose effectiveness was close to average in both subjects.
    “In addition, many of the low-performing teachers who survived the layoffs got significantly better, jumping to near average effectiveness compared to their peers districtwide.”
    Pay particular attention to the statement that “many low-performing teachers…got significantly better.” You would not expect that to happen if teacher effectiveness, measured by past test score changes, was really the crucial factor in educational improvement. If teachers who were ineffective in past years suddenly improve it would indicate that the crucial factor was not the teachers but some other element of the educational program. In fact, the school in question received a huge influx of school improvement funds as part of a multi-year program. Last year was the second year of the program. Past studies have shown that it often takes two years for a new program to show positive effects. This explanation would be consistent with school improvement results in Oakland, where for the past two years the middle schools showing greatest improvement have all benefited from class size reduction funded by the QEIA program.
    One problem with “value added” analysis based on test score improvement is that when test scores go up, for whatever reason, the scores of the teachers at those schools improve automatically, and when the test scores go down for any reason the scores of the teachers go down. To answer the question “why?” one needs to dig deeper.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for re-posting your comment, Steve.

    I see what you mean about the use of “brought in,” which makes it sound more intentional than what it was. I guess I read it a bit differently. It seemed to me the reporters were making the point that these “more effective” teachers — though not placed at Markham through any teacher effectiveness policy or “value-added” rating — were the key to improving the school. And that such placements should be made systematically, rather than by chance.

  • Steven Weinberg

    The University of Washington study begins with false assumptions. It assumes that teacher effectiveness is the only variable affecting student test scores and that teacher effectiveness stays the same from year to year. Both claims are false, so the figures they generate have no real value.
    Look again at the details Katy provided. This study is for the entire state of Washington. If you fire all the teachers with the lowest test scores improvement in a state, the firings will not be distributed equally among districts. Those districts with the students who are the hardest to educate (English language learners, poor students, those with special needs) would bear almost the total brunt of the firings. Then to get the gains this study claims would occur, the students in those districts would have to suddenly perform like students who do not have those problems. You would also need to be able to switch teachers from one part of the state to another.

    Even if one favored a lay-off system based on value added analysis, it would be almost impossible to create one. About half the teachers in a district do not teach students who are tested in their subject area or grade, so they would have no value-added score. No first year teachers would have any value-added score available at the time lay-offs are made. Second through fourth year teachers would have inadequate data to generate a reliable value added score.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Katy, I see your point in #2, but look at the circular reasoning being used in the LA Times article. How do we know the teachers who came to the school were more effective? We know because the test scores at the school went up. But did the changes in the teachers cause the improvement in the scores? Almost certainly not, because the students who had the same teachers that were at the school before also showed improvement. The improvement, which took place throughout the school, was the result of the tremendous increase in funding the school received.

  • http://www.skylinehs.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=77763&type=u&rn=6808095 David Orphal

    Seniority-based systems make sense. How many years have you been a professional writer, Ms. Murphy? Would you not say that you are better today than you were when you began your career? Wouldn’t you say that experience and professional development have been the two major reasons why you are a better professional today than you were when you began your career? Couldn’t most of us say the same thing?

    Seniority rules make sense because everyone gets better at their profession as they gain experience and wisdom.

    Seniority rules are in place because, when an organization needs to reduce it’s work force, the organization should retain the most experienced professionals.

    Seniority rules also came into being because of some corrupt principals.

    Unprincipled principals once abuses their arbitrary power to lay-off teachers. Sometimes they let go of teachers who came out of the closet, asked too many awkward questions at meetings, held contrary political opinions, or refused sexual advances.

    If unchecked power to fire and lay-off teachers were returned, some principals may be sorely tempted to lay-off 15- and 20-year veterans, without a thought of their effectiveness in the classroom, knowing that they can roll the dice on a fresh-faced college grad. The new hire may be good, or s/he may be bad, but either way, s/he be half the cost of the veteran. Quite an easy solution to annually shrinking budgets.

    Even if the principal at a large high school were to spend EVERY DAY visiting classrooms and watching his teachers, with over 100 professionals to visit, she would not be able to spend more than a day and a half with each teacher. She could not begin to make informed judgements about the quality of each and every teacher. It is unreasonable to expect her to make informed decisions about who to lay off, if seniority rules were suddenly stripped away.

    One may counter, “That’s why we need objective test scores to tell us which teachers are effective and which are not.” The problem with the test-score worshippers is their unwillingness to consider the mountains of studies and research that have been telling us for decades that standardized tests only inform us about low-level thinking and basic fact memorization and none of the skills that most folks would equate to the word “educated.” Children who do tremendously well on these tests often flounder when asked to apply their memorized facts to answer a complex question or to show multiple ways to solve a problem.

    All of this said, there are some teachers who should consider moving on to other professions. Everyone has an opinion on this, and every person I know can name a teacher that she or he knows who is a “bad teacher.” Heck… some of my colleagues or former students may even think of my name as an example of a “bad teacher.”

    It should be easier to remove incompetent teachers from their classroom duties. However, whatever the next generation teacher evaluation system look likes, it must be both reasonable for school districts and fair for teachers.

    Until that day, I prefer to keep lay-off decisions based on seniority. That way, at least I know that when lay-offs come, our most experienced professionals will remain in the classroom serving their students.

  • Hills Parent

    I’m not in favor of seniority based layoffs. Both my children have had crummy teachers who were at the end of their long teaching career. They have had great teachers who were young, enthusiastic, driven, caring. These were recent grads with the most up-to-date teaching methods, for example ready to differentiate their teaching to meet the varied needs of their students. To be fair, they have also had some wonderful veteran teachers.

    What I’m saying is that while one can gain skills and improve, that’s not necessarily the case. Some teachers just get tired and burned out and are ready to cut corners. So it’s not as simple as seniority rules when it comes to effective teachers.

    At our school, one of the very best teachers is a young newcomer. When the budget gets cut again, this amazing teacher will be let go. However, we’ll still have two older veterans who are the weakest links at the school. If anyone should lose their job, it should be those who are least able to teach – in this case, a couple of the gray hairs. I wish that was how it worked. Here’s an idea: let’s judge people on merit not seniority.

  • J.R.

    “whatever the next generation teacher evaluation system look likes, it must be both reasonable for school districts and fair for teachers”.

    It’s always about the money, benefits, perks and pensions, it’s never about the kids.

    Even before “testing mania” was a pipe dream much of the US school system has been failing the children. At that time the mantra was and still is “we need more money”, and it will never be enough. Oakland is unique though, it caused it’s own problem when it did the small school thing, and with more principals,staff and teachers you just can’t have everyone highly paid from top to bottom. Oakland will continue at or near the bottom until there is complete re-structuring of policy. Decades at or near the bottom speaks volumes, and every parent who takes time to know the teachers and the material know “who is” and who isn’t a large factor in failure. Blame testing all you want but that is not the “Genesis” of the problems that we have. Those problems started long before then.

  • Nextset

    I agree with JR on the point that OUSD is not going to improve. It’s more likely to get worse. OUSD will continue to drive away white, jewish and asian students while at the same time driving away the worst of the black underclass (that’s very easy to do – just like the classical music on the PA at the mall). What will be left is the black, brown and darker asian students whose parent decline to enroll them into charter schools. Demographics is destiny. As far as how OUSD fits layoffs into this, we will see. But OUSD is going to shrink.

    OUSD is shrinking because people are voting with their feet. OUSD does not operate enough real schools to keep the students who have other options. A good free public school doesn’t have these problems, look at Piedmont Unified.

    If I were OUSD employees I’d seriously look at retirement or relocation.

  • J.R.

    Hills parent,
    You are correct,common sense says keep the best, and toss the inept(toss the unnecessary and redundant) . Public employees and their unions don’t have “common sense”, they have a voracious hunger for your tax money that can never be quenched. As long as there is a lot of taxpayer money on the line(which feeds the unions and fat cats) things will not change. Money corrupts absolutely, it’s not about the kids at all,just look at the UC situation.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/12/29/MNDC1GUSCT.DTL&tsp=1

    We are dumping the young teachers who are needed for the future(seniority rears its ugly head), instead we are hanging on to those that will be hanging on for another 10-15 years for a pension and then what? This should not be about fairness to anyone except the children. Not very many people in the real world work a few years and feel entitled to almost un-shakeable job security, benefits and pensions. People usually earn as they go, and if they can no longer perform are replaced.

  • Michael Kinsley

    It seems like most of the discussion of the role seniority plays in “RIFS” is either deliberately disingenuous or uninformed. As anyone who has paid close attention to the decisions made by the management of any of this state’s large school districts should, by now, realize educational outcomes are one of the last things that school administrators worry about. What they are concerned with is the cost, and docility of the teaching force. If seniority is eliminated as the controlling factor in determining who to layoff, experienced, effective, career teachers will lose their jobs because they are more expensive, and less easily intimidated. The myth that beginning teachers are more effective is just that, a myth. The job is so difficult, and so complex that you cannot really expect a teacher to be fully effective until they have been doing the job for three to five years.

    The problem with those schools that constantly lose the majority of their teaching forces when layoffs occur is really a canard. The reason those schools are hit disproportionately by RIFS is that the districts which run them have not concerned themselves with making these sites decent work places for their staffs. They are staffed with the least experienced teachers in those districts because those teachers do not have the seniority to move to other school sites with better working conditions. Were the districts who operate these sites actually make them decent, safe, work environments, those sites would hold onto and attract more stable teaching forces.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Although, in the short run, being able to ignore job protection for employees might seem advantageous, as JR and Hills Parent point out, in the long run it leave all teachers subject to arbitrary dismissal and that would make it harder to attract and keep quality teachers. That is why some form of the job protection for teachers is vital for students.
    If job protection policies for teachers negatively impacted student learning, you would expect charter schools (which do not offer such protection) to be showing far superior results than regular public schools. They do not.
    On a different subject, Katy, thank you for the addition of spell check to the site. It is a big help to those of us who are less than perfect typists.

  • J.R.

    “you cannot really expect a teacher to be fully effective until they have been doing the job for three to five years”.

    I agree with you, and along those lines:
    Mike,
    “The biggest myth” is that more experience after those 3-5 years equates to better performance. As far as charter schools, some perform better while others do not, but the biggest advantage is that the unions can’t dictate policy, and as a taxpayer I like that, and the fact that my money doesn’t go to union coffers for political power and preference.

    Man up and admit “YOU” just care about “YOU”, and the kids and their parents are just a means to an end(a revenue stream if you will).

  • Michael Kinsley

    I really cannot imagine, after reading his rebuttal to my comment, that J.R. has ever seen the business end of a classroom. Committed teachers, like all other professionals, are incessantly concerned with improving their performance in the classroom. This drivel that those of us who have been there long-term, or the unions that represent us, are only concerned with money is just that — drivel! If money was my concern, I would never have gone into teaching in the first place. Yet, I have to ask, do teachers NOT have a right to expect to be compensated for their work? Do we not have a right to an income sufficient to support our own families? Teachers who only care about themselves don’t last long in the classrooms that are to be found in this state. J.R., you need to “man up” about about the ideologies that drive your incessant need to denigrate teachers and teacher unions.

  • J.R.

    Mike,
    Most teachers are professional and committed, but that doesn’t absolve the inept or cover the multitude of sins over decades by the union who fought tooth and nail every reasonable effort to improve the bloated education system. As a result we are stuck with a system that is full of layers of bureaucrats and lawyers to make sure every frivolous union backed law is followed to the letter. In all of this political tripe the single purpose for it all gets lost which is “to educate our children to become productive citizens”. I denigrate teachers unions and the bad teachers that they protect(the good and great teachers already have my utmost respect). Do you see the difference yet? Are you so insulated that you cannot even see it?

  • Ralph

    Teacher effectiveness impacts student outcomes. A better more effective teacher tends to result in better outcomes. Thus, in theory, it would make sense to let go of the least effective teachers. But before you let go of the least effective teachers ask yourself have you done everything you can to put them in a position to succeed? Is the worst performing school staffed 100% by 1st year teachers? Do new teachers have a mentor? Despite initial effectiveness, do you see potential in the teacher? Mike Singletary stunk it up in his first stint as a head coach but are his errors correctable, do you think he will learn from his mistakes? So while I agree that cutting the bottom 5% is a good idea, we must examine the whole picture.

  • Hot r

    Interesting discussion:

    Steven Weinberg seems to miss the obvious point that as a staff the teachers and the school got better with more resources, pointing to how school progress is really made. Teachers can be much more effective and students can make significant leaps in progress when conditions improve in all their classrooms, not just in one room of a superstar instructor. Perhaps now those teachers are realizing their true potential when given adequate funding and lower class size.

    Michael Kinsley hit the nail on the head. Administrators will act to make their own jobs easier by getting rid of the rebels and outspoken instructors who question authority first, long before they get rid of “bad” teachers. Unfortunately these rebels and outspoken teachers are some of the best instructors who march to a different drummer.

    This brings us to the real issue about administrators…aren’t they to blame for bad teachers? Aren’t they the ones writing the same job reviews year after year based on who makes the fewest waves, says the least at faculty meetings and never questions any new policy?

    For Nextset, just think about this. Take those same Piedmont teachers you put up on a pedestal and switch staffs with Fremont or Castlemont. All of a sudden the Castlemont staff will get a lot better, and the Piedmont staff a lot worse. You will find then that the difference is not in the staffs, but the students and the community.

    And JR please don’t compare the overreaching bureaucrats at UC with teachers. those people are not educators. A good classroom teacher is worth twice as much as any of them.

  • Hot r

    Oh yeah, lay off the staff sergeants, NCOs, captains, pilots and ordinance experts. let the privates and green behind the ears shavetails fight the battles. Layoff the surgeons, specialists and experts in their fields and let the medical students run the hospital and perform the operations. Better yet, get rid of the detectives, SWAT and CSI units and let the rookies straight put of the academy police the streets. After all, don’t all of these people know the “latest” methods?

  • Public School Teacher

    I have to agree with Hot R. The demographics of the school play a huge role in test scores than teacher quality. Many of the students in Piedmont and higher achieving “hills schools” come from homes where parents spend more time with kids on homework and reading, preschool attendance is the norm and kids are exposed to higher vocabularies and cultural experiences, i.e., visiting museums, Lawrence Hall of Science membership, etc. This is what gets the high test scores. Swap teachers and though you may find some advances in lower performing schools, the numbers won’t be significant enough to measure teacher quality as the dominant factor in student achievement.

    I still hold on to my belief that students need to be tutored after school and during the summer in lower performing schools during the elementary school years. As a high school teacher, one thing I notice about my students are the lack of proper writing skills and reading difficulties, particularly with non-fiction text.

    Also, schools in Piedmont and other affluent districts spend more time on project based learning, developing critical thinking skills and activities that engage and expand the mind. They don’t have to worry about incessant test prep the way lower performing schools must. Take another glaring example, most English classes are drilled in test prep and short reading and writing passages to master the tests. Shouldn’t they focus on literature and essay writing?

  • J.R.

    Hot R,
    Don’t get in a lather, hills parent said there were many fine veteran teachers, and there are. The problem is the education system is awash in contracts,stipulations and litigation(a lawyers wet dream)by design to make it as hard as possible to get rid of entrenched imbeciles of every job description. It is not much more than an expensive type of employment development department(some daycare and some great teaching in some classes). Many teachers care and do a great job, and there are some that do not,this is due in part to the entitlement attitude inherent in the public sector. You can’t measure it, but they are worth every penny and more simply because they exist.

  • Bones

    One thing I find interesting in these debates is that there seems to be very little agreement on what “success” is for a K-12 education system. For example, I would argue that success is getting into a top college and then a high-paying job afterward (which by the way requires scoring high on standardized tests), but I know that many people would disagree with me (and I’m fine with that). So I believe a good K-12 education gives students the opportunity to succeed in a great school and in a high-paying environment.

    Given this definition of success, I would argue that we should be trying our darnedest to talk to the handful of 25 year olds out there making $200,000+/year in posh jobs to figure out what they think we should be doing to educate kids (they may never have been teachers themselves, but they probably had more great teachers than most of us have had)? Instead, we dismiss anyone’s contributions if they haven’t themselves been a teacher before, feel bad for our own teachers for having to work 50-60 hour weeks (there are lots of people out there working 70-100 hour weeks) and instead focus on fancy and meaningless terms like “scaffolding” and “whole child” that are invented by professors at teaching schools who, let’s be frank, probably don’t know good teaching when they see it.

  • Nextset

    Hot R: I don’t put the Piedmont Teachers on a pedestal – you mistake me. Those teachers may have been smart enough to avoid ghetto schools and ghetto students, and seek employment in a good school with good students, but I’m not saying the teachers themselves have superior magic dust that sprinkles over the kids and gets them into Yale.

    If you were to switch the Piedmont Teachers into Oakland ghetto schools the results for the ghetto would not significantly change. The ghetto students would still be poor students and the school administration would still prevent any disciplining of them.

    The reason Piedmont Unified works and OUSD fails is that Piedmont will flunk and transfer out screw ups and Piedmont is full of better students. Oakland Unified has a dominant group of bad students, has no discipline and mixes good and bad students in the same campus and classroom. One bad apple can spoil the barrel and all that.

  • Nextset

    Public School Teacher: Your post #18 is a fantasy. I wonder if you have ever attended a school such as Piedmont.

    You are obsessed with the notion that student success comes from visiting the requisite number of art galleries or “enrichment”. You seem to think that if we put the ghetto kids on a bus to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and enough other attractions it will change them and they will turn white or jewish. Kind of like that scene from “To Sir With Love” where Sidney Potier takes the East End kids for an outing and they stop trying to stab each other.

    You think Piedmont “develops critical thinking skills” by some magic classroom work (it’s that pixie dust theory again), and OUSD doesn’t. OUSD has got to shop around for better dust.

    You assume the Piedmont parents generally do homework with their kids? Not working all the time to cover the mortgage and lifestyle payments or just being drunk (or otherwise busy) or divorced?? You think the “difference” is facetime with Mommie and Daddie?

    What kind of a teacher are you? You believe in fairy tales.

    Lower class people – and lower class adolescents – have no use for information they can’t use at once. They are present oriented and live only for the moment. If you think a classroom can add abstract concepts and long term research and learning to an unreceptive disinterested audience you are in the wrong profession. What you will do is run off the audience – by trying to sell them what they don’t want to buy. That’s what OUSD does with the black students and that’s why the black dropout rate is where it is. Just go ahead and add one more “graduation” requirement, like math or writing or foreign language or even classical music. Watch them run home.

    You want to do something for the Oakland Blacks? You want to teach them to read and count? Return driver’s ed and training to OUSD. That’s a reason to go to school. Add an Automotive Tech program. Add any number of vocational programs – which include basic reading and math – you know, the 8th grade kind you need for an exit exam.

    Stop telling these kids that they have to follow a Piedmont style college prep course and offer them something they can use immediately. Run a college prep program – a tough one that expels people who don’t keep up – up in the hills or at Oakland Tech or somewhere on it’s own. And let the students vote with their feet what they will commit to.

    You will have greater success by all measures.

  • Ralph

    Nextset,
    I am thankful that you are not in the classroom. Students need both effective teachers and summer enrichment programs so as not to lose the gains made during the school year. The idea, as PST stated above, is to engage the child early get them interested in learning for learning. Not all students are going to go to college but during our lives, no matter what we do, we need to be learning.

  • Nextset

    Ralph, agreed. As far as me being in a classroom again, it doesn’t pay enough and it doesn’t give me the freedom I require to accomplish what I want to accomplish. I am quite satisfied having taught and promoted law clerks to the bench, to law firm partnerships and to rather interesting government jobs. And that wasn’t always easy as it took a little effort and time to get them out of their comfort zones and into the roller coaster of life. There were plenty that couldn’t be advanced. They wouldn’t leave their comfort zone.

    Obviously school “enrichment” is worthwhile, to a point. When you think your idea of enrichment can change lead into gold, you are doing more harm than good.

    White liberals like to ignore the critical basics while they run after fantasies they believe will magically transform people into something they don’t want to be in the first place.

    I’ve grown up in an era of black “firsts”. It’s a lot of fun to surprise people – there is a downside sometimes. I just have a problem with white liberals thinking they can magically transform people when they simultaneously ignore morals, discipline, verbal skills and every other foundational thing (usually because they don’t want to “upset” the chillun).

    I can see this as soon as I walk into a ghetto classroom as a guest speaker.

    This thread is on layoff rules. I believe civil service rules are clear and the argument is academic. The districts have to follow the rules and the labor contracts.

    I believe the urban districts are on the way out and the employees just don’t get it. These schools will be supplanted by other schools. They will shrink. And if the state collapses – as seems likely – education will be increasingly automated or labor reduced anyway.

  • Yet Another Oakland Teacher

    Yikes – layoff rules and the hue and cry of loosing good, young teachers and keeping old crummy teachers. After 9 years of teaching in both flat and hills schools I have come to a couple of thoughts on success of education.

    1) Administrators make the difference in the success of the school. Good administrators require discipline at all levels (in both senses of the word). They demand that all teachers perform and maintain high standards in the academic areas as well as in the social interactions of the students. They are responsible for setting the tone of the school. They also have the tools to remove nonperforming staff. Yes it takes some doing, but it is their job. Administrators that hold children and families accountable for the childrens’ behavior have less safety issues at school and therefore more time to spend on actual academics. Here comes success.

    2) From about 4th grade on, children like learning real things. Marginal readers become real readers when presented with text and information that interests them (in schools where science and history are well taught kids read, they want to, and they find out that conquistadors are cool – they had swords). This also allows children to learn critical thinking skills, and as often as not they want to research and learn more. This has been true with the kids I worked with in the flats and the hills.

    3) Teachers old and young need to be committed to learning and revisiting what they do in their classrooms using all the data available to them. When a teacher does any thing because it keeps them organized, and not because it furthers the learning goals of the students in the class, the teacher needs to retool. (Can be yearly, daily, hourly or all of the above.

    4) The rules regarding job protections need to be maintained, because power is an absolute and the power to hire and fire needs to be tempered with accountability, not just because this year’s principal only likes teachers who came through their program, or have the same background or are willing to play dodge ball as team building activity (yes, dodge ball). The dropping of these sorts of job protections in the non-education world are part of the reason manufacturing jobs, and those lovely people who help us when our computers die are overseas.

    4) We, as adults, need to understand that if we do not take care of, and offer options to the youth behind us, our society is going to become more divided. We need to focus on bringing jobs back that are diverse and good paying. We also need to make sure that we teach compassion and generosity (I know families should do this, but the world needs to reinforce it for the kids).

    Those are my thoughts – I am sure as time progresses and our state population continues to refuse to pay for things it values (education, roads, police….) we will have to figure out where to go next for those things, and the answers will be interesting.

  • Public School Teacher

    Nextset, do you read my posts through your own personal filter? You must, since you completely misconstrue what I say. I am not going to spend time clarifying my original post, since you won’t read it for what it really says. You need to relax.

  • ChocolateSebastian

    It seems the District is attempting to exit higher paid senior/veteran teachers through early retirement offers. I posted below an email I received from OEA. I don’t meet the age requirements, so I don’t know if the District actually sent out the notices. Did anyone get one?

    OEA Email:
    Are you 55 or older with at least five years of experience? 50 with at least 30? Over the winter break many of you will receive a letter from OUSD with some important information concerning OUSD’s new Early Retirement proposal. OUSD is offering to buy out employees who have the requisite years of experience in OUSD. Highlights of the program:
    · OUSD will pay an employee 75% of the employee’s current yearly income if the employee quits the district effective the end of this school year.
    · The money would not be given as a lump sum, but would be annuitized.
    · The amount of buyout money would be divided into 60 equal payments and paid out over five years, or smaller payments paid out over a longer time at your option.
    · There is no Health Care Benefit provided with early retirement. As with all retirees, early retirees will need to pay out-of-pocket to continue their health care. While we are trying to negotiate some health care reduction for retirees by asking HealthNet and Kaiser to keep early retirees at the lower “active pool” rate, it is unlikely that will occur. (See the table below for current monthly expenses for retiree health care.)
    · However, buyout money could be used to pay for health benefits.

    Kaiser Early Retiree ($ monthly)
    HealthNet Early Retiree
    ($ monthly)
    one person
    two person
    family
    one person
    two person
    family
    727.97
    1455.94
    2060.15
    826.39
    1624.15
    2350.39

    OEA and all the other employee unions made it clear to the district that we were not officially endorsing the buyout, in part because of the way it was rolled out without sufficient advance notice to allow us to communicate fully with our members, and also because of the high cost of retiree health care for those needing a “bridge to Medicare.” OEA also noted our concern with the potential loss of many experienced teachers, stating in a letter to the district:

    “OEA has and will continue to advocate about the primary role experienced teachers and other certificated employees play in making a difference in the educational lives of children in most need and not the quick-fix fads and teacher bashing currently being promoted across the country. We continue to advocate for real measures of reform, which include changing the working and learning conditions for teachers and students through such things as lower class size, improved compensation, greater supports for students in need, among others. These measures would encourage experienced teachers to remain in the district.”

    However, while we are concerned about the potential loss of experienced teachers in our district, we realize that the buyout proposal would be a benefit for some of you and that you would appreciate the opportunity to retire before the age of 65.
    We wanted to let you know the Early Retirement letter is coming so that you can have some time to start thinking about the proposal. OEA will have resources available for those of you who may be considering retirement as a result of this buyout. We will keep you posted about those plans.

  • TheTruthHurts

    I hate that we’re having this discussion and if it wasn’t for the budget nightmare and lack of funding for education, we wouldn’t need the conversation.

    Clearly tenure and layoff rules are flawed. There has got to be something that works better for students and the teachers that serve them best. Shouldn’t we be focused on them?