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An old news recap: charter school decisions, mutual matching, blue ribbon nomination

UPDATE: The school board later approved the amended petitions of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits.

Education news kept right on happening in the last two weeks. Here are some of the developments I missed while I was visiting old temples and dodging motorbikes:

THE OAKLAND SCHOOL BOARD REJECTED the charter school conversion petitions submitted by the faculties of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, elementary schools in the Fruitvale area. While the district’s charter schools office recommended approval, Superintendent Tony Smith took a different stance, saying that allowing schools to break away from the district would undermine the district’s strategic plan. Both schools have since appealed the decision to the Alameda County Board of Education.

This whereas seems to sum up the superintendent’s position:

“WHEREAS, the District can not succeed at its strategic plan to create a Full Service Community School District that serves the whole child, provides each child with a caring environment that accelerates academic achievement and supports student success if after millions of dollars in investment, individual schools that have achieved because of the District’s investment can separate and opt out of the District, with the consequence that the District loses its collective identity as a school system serving children in all neighborhoods in Oakland.”

The board on Jan. 11 also voted against the charter school office’s recommendation for ARISE High School — this time, by approving the charter school’s renewal with some conditions. In this case, the office deemed ARISE an unsound educational program, but the board disagreed. (More info here.)

The board also approved the petition for the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Community School to open in July. (More info here.)

IN NEWER CHARTER NEWS: This Wednesday, Education for Change — a charter management group that is working with ASCEND and Learning Without Limits — plans to submit a third charter conversion petition, this time for Lazear Elementary, which is slated for closure in June.

Parents at that Fruitvale-area school submitted a petition last fall, but the document was not up to the standards of the OUSD charter schools office, and the parents withdrew it. Now they’ll turn in another draft, prepared with the assistance of Education for Change. Hae-Sin Kim Thomas, a former OUSD administrator who is now the Education for Change CEO, said Lazear parents have had a difficult time finding another school in walking distance that has space for their children, and that some have received a cool reception at some of the schools they’ve visited.

GOOD NEWS: Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy, a small elementary school in East Oakland that has made huge test score gains, has been nominated for a National Blue Ribbon award — one of 35 in California to receive a nomination for being among the state’s highest performing or most improved schools. Whether it wins the award this fall will depend on the next round of tests. (No pressure.)

THE FEELING ISN’T MUTUAL for a OUSD staff proposal that would change the way open teaching positions are filled. It’s called “mutual matching,” and teachers union leaders aren’t as keen on it as Superintendent Tony Smith, who had this opinion piece published in the Tribune the other week. A blog post on the union’s website, advertising a 4:30 p.m. Thursday forum on the topic, has this to say about the idea:

Don’t be fooled – scratch the surface and it’s an attempt to get rid of seniority in our contractual transfer rights, under the guise of “abandon(ing) our nostalgia for practices unsuited to the current challenge” (Tribune editorial). In doing so, the district is following the national education “deform” line that it’s “bad teachers” to blame for the problems in public education — not lack of funding, resources, institutional racism, or respect for our profession – and that this can be resolved through letting teachers compete in the marketplace for their assignments.

Here is a link to a letter and chart posted on the union’s website about how the process would work, according to OUSD staff. The district has devoted a section of its site to the issue, which you can find here.

I have an interview scheduled with district staffers tomorrow afternoon about this proposal and will write about it in greater depth. What questions do you have about it?

What other news should I be catching up on?

Katy Murphy

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

  • http://ouroakland.net Gene

    Welcome home!

    I don’t know enough about the mutual matching idea to form an opinion. On one hand, it seems like a great idea for students and schools. On the other hand, it seems like an opportunity for long-time educators to get the short end of the stick.

    As a long-time follower of the education scene in Oakland, what’s your take?

  • Katy Murphy

    I, too, need to learn more about mutual matching. It sounds reasonable on the surface, especially if schools aren’t asked to pay more for a veteran teacher than a newer hire (and thus given a disincentive to hire someone with many years of service), but I’m not certain whether that would change — or about what would happen to teachers who don’t get matched up with a school. In the wake of the five elementary school closures, the issue is especially important.

    The OEA is clearly wary of creating competition among its members, and has compared the proposed matching process to “speed dating.” On the other hand, I’ve heard countless principals, parents and even teachers complain about having little to no say about who fills the open positions at their school. The practice of “hiding vacancies” — when principals circumvent the union rules so they can hire who they want — also puts displaced teachers at a disadvantage. Proponents of mutual matching say they expect it will address that problem by giving principals more control over who they hire (so that they no longer feel they need to hide vacancies). I’d like to know if that has panned out in other districts that have tried the system.

    Most people I’ve talked to about the current system tell me it is flawed — for teachers and for schools. The question is whether this new proposal is better, and whether it will make a real difference for Oakland students.

  • Livegreen

    Re OEAs attribution of this effort to “national education deform”, etc. it is getting tiresome that every & any effort at progress in education, no matter how varied or different, is met by the same union attacks if teachers are involved.

    By using the same refrains no matter the situation (which in some cases are justified, but in others are not), the OEA is undercutting it’s own position.

  • Turanga_teach

    Currently, under RBB, schools DO have to pay the actual individual salary and benefits of each teacher. It is not hard, at all, to imagine this leading veteran teachers from closed schools out of their jobs because they’re too “expensive”.

    I am glad this needs to be discussed at the bargaining table, because not addressing this issue while still pushing for mutual matching is asking for an incredible injustice.

  • Makeitgoaway

    Why not add a teacher representative to the selection process to make sure it is not just about selecting the lowest cost teacher and add specific criteria like 21st Century media skills, demonstrable success, awards, performance reviews, recommendations and test scores to the mix (like a real job). Who wants a teacher who doesn’t want to teach there? The current system where principals scheme for their favorites and try to avoid the “dance of the lemons” is idiotic. Unfortunately, the union spends its time protecting a small group of ineffective teachers thereby giving all teachers a bad name.

  • J.R.

    I think many of the new ideas including mutual matching make perfect sense, and there are others that don’t such as excessive testing. There are also union defined practices that have never made any sense whatsoever(Bumping,seniority in and of itself as a major marker of quality). If the goal it to know effectiveness in the classroom, then lesson plan books must be given at least a cursory examination. I see far too many kids advance to their next grade who have absolutely no idea how to do routine calculation,spelling, grammar or even write a coherent sentence. Much of this is attributable to lack of parenting skills and discipline, but some of it also rests with people who are supposed to be professionals, and are not.

  • J.R.

    This is interesting, especially the way B.J. chimes in:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/24/BANS1MTDN1.DTL

  • TheTruthHurts

    Welcome back Katy! Thanks for posting the detail. I’ve read some of it and left surprised and yet, no so much.

    I must say, education never fails to astonish me. Supervisors have no say in their staff!?! What planet are we on? I mean really!

    Every job I’ve ever taken, I took it as a right that I was able to interview the employer the same way they were interviewing me. I asked questions about their philosophy, work environment, style and what type of employee they were looking for – it’s called professionalism. I was going to be there most of my waking hours and I wanted a good fit. It was also important that they wanted me. Why would I want to work there if they didn’t? I was concerned about discrimination, but I didn’t want to work for racists either.

    Regardless of all that, aren’t we supposed to be talking about what’s best for students? . . . Nevermind, I forgot this was Oakland.

    And that leads me to the competition – Charters. Do they deal with this nonsense? As parents and now even schools choose to leave OUSD for charters, can we blame them? As a parent, do you think I want the leader who I align my child’s education with to have no say on who becomes a teacher at their school? Ridiculous! If it weren’t Oakland and in writing, I wouldn’t believe it.

  • Gordon Danning

    I have 3 concerns/questions/comments re: mutual matching:

    1. Many of the veteran teachers who are unassigned at the end of a school year are teachers who volunteered to work at small schools that did not work out and hence were closed. Under the old rules, a veteran teacher who gambled on a new school knew that if it didnt work out, she or he would probably be able to get a desirable position. Under mutual matching, there is more uncertainty, so veterans will be less likely to gamble on experimental schools, programs, etc.

    2. Suppose 3 or 4 schools are all clamoring for the same teacher. Does the teacher get to pick which school he or she goes to, or does the District make that decision?

    3. Lastly, even under mutual matching, some schools will be forced to take some teachers. Teachers whom no school wants still have a right to a job — under state law, they can’t be laid off. So there is bit of a “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” aspect about this. We/the district spends too much time and effort on procedural matters and too little on improving teaching/demanding more of teachers and students.

  • Miles

    I agree with #8.

    Let me get this straight:
    1. Leaders cannot select who they have on staff,

    2. then they cannot replace ineefective tenured teachers, janitors, secretaries…etc due to unions;

    3.then they have to deal with parents who want nothing else then to blame the schools for their lazy beligerent kid;

    4. Then deal with crazed agenda driven board members and liberal law makers who make the job nearly impossible with the ever changing education law landscape and consistently strip authority from schools yet want them to be accountable

    Only to be blamed when the school is underperforming!!
    Forget that! The system is heading for a collapse.

    I’d rather collect cans and be free then to put up with an artery busting job like that.

    Parents of public schools be ready for the fallout, its imploding.

  • wiley

    Why does public education constatly need scapegoats? Why not just own what we allow such as the embarrasing low salaries in most places, for anyone working in our schools, the constant barrage of politcally motivated, top down “reforms” that go no where, the high salaries of superintendents who do not boast success yet move on to even bigger salaries, the complete underfunding – remember school nurses, PE and Art teachers – remember those days.? If selecting teachers was the key, how come charter schools do no better than public counterparts? Mutual match scapegoats senior teachers. Senior teachers are not the reason public schools are failing- by the measures we are using.

  • J.R.

    Do not forget that certain districts(LAUSD, and OUSD among them) have been under-performing for decades, this is not a new phenomenon. Underfunding is not the root cause of failure, we have spent more money per child over the last 40-50 years than any nation on earth and where has that left us? The per child spending figures are not even complete, I don’t even think they include capital expenditures in the calculations.We should be embarrassed at the mediocrity that the system has wrought. If California did not have some very high performing districts, things would look even worse.

  • Nextset

    I second what Miles is saying.

    These are not “schools” we are talking about. These are holding pens for (largely black) proletariat & underclass. The real schools are the private and church schools. The ghetto districts can rearrange the deck chairs all they want. They have no intention of running an actual school, they never did.

    I look forward to seeing what the new segregated school turns out to be. I don’t expect anything.

    I’m pleased when I look back at the East Bay Schools I had when I was school age. We took them for granted and assumed they’d always be there. The later generations of my family are spending tens of thousands on primary and secondary education. My parents paid $12 – $20 a month in 1960 perhaps?

    Brave New World.

  • Oakland Teacher

    The two paragraphs below are cut and pasted from another article in this same paper today. It sure points toward money spent per pupil as relevant to student achievement. It is difficult to separate out school funding from family socioeconomics though. When you look at some of the traditionally highest achieving school districts, the families have more money/practically no family poverty and the schools have far more money per pupil. When you look at most of the traditionally highest achieving elementary schools in OUSD, the same is true + they had the highest teacher retention and more stable staffing. We have a very short institutional memory in Oakland. There used to be an outcry that those high-achieving schools were lucky enough to have all veteran teachers, while most of the schools had very new teachers (who often left after 1-2 years). Now we have done a 180 degree turn-around and are complaining about veteran teachers, and we charge schools for the privilege of having them on their staff. We send lay-off notices to new teachers (sometimes an entire school’s worth). Is it any wonder that there is a perfect storm in terms of hiring? And that to the glee of the school district, new teachers have turned against veterans?

    “California ranks in the bottom five states in student performance, along with Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada and Arizona, Chin-Bendib said.

    The top five states — Vermont, Rhode Island, Wyoming, New Jersey and Maine — spend about $8,000 more per student than the bottom five.”

  • J.R.

    Oakland Teacher,
    Once again, no one has said this is the fault of veteran teachers, this massive problem is borne on the apathy of many willing participants. This childish attitude of victimization needs to stop, and people need to do their jobs(parents,students,teachers and administrators).
    On the issue of per child spending, why is it that districts like OUSD and LAUSD(who have much larger budgets and spend much more per child)11K-20+K per child ADA, always use the much lower California state average figure of 7-8+K per child? Where are the results?

    Here you will find that OUSD spends 11.5K per child, so enough with the whining already(like I said it doesn’t even include capitol investment/expenditure.

    http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/App_Resx/EdDataClassic/fsTwoPanel.aspx?#!bottom=/_layouts/EdDataClassic/fiscal/MC-Results.asp

  • livegreen

    Nextet, I must remind you (again) not to generalize about all Oakland schools. They are not all the same, and they are not all as you describe them.

    On the other hand, along with you, I agree with the comments in #8 (by Thetruthhurts) and #10 (by Miles) (–even if I don’t necessarily agree with all the conclusions).

    School managers need flexibility to make decisions for their schools, combined with input from both teachers and families. Not seniority alone.

    I state again, the OEA is undercutting it’s position by always yelling bloody murder, and always refusing to find a way to compromise, and always labeling ANY type of reform as “union busting”.

    Like George Bush the OEA appears to adhere to the misguided opinion/mantra that “you are either for us or against us”.

  • classified employee

    Before we get too carried away with blaming everything on teachers and unions, I feel compelled to point out that the OEA contract (and every collectively-bargained contrace ever written) contains mechanisms for getting rid of teachers (or whatever group is represented) who are not competent at their jobs. Now, it isn’t simply a walk in the door and get told to go home sort of mechanism, but it does exist. It is ultimately on the Adminstrators to follow the steps necessary (evals, PAR, etc.) to get this person out of here. Simple point of fact, many admistrators don’t want to be bothered and would rather find a way to get the teacher out of the site instead of out of the district. Sometimes they don’t want to have uncomfortable conversations with people or feel bad for them. The administrators themselves at least played a roll in this situation.
    It seems a more reasonable conversation would be about ways to improve the mechanisms for getting rid of bad teachers rather than doing away with everything. It isn’t hard to imagine that OEA would be much more defensive about the latter than the former. Perhaps that’s a conversation they’re willing to have…Despite the assertions of many here, NOBODY wants bad teachers in the classroom. It just seems unnecessary to go this far to accomplish it.

  • TheTruthHurts

    I believe great teaching is woefully under-appreciated and under-compensated. That said the reality is this.

    Avg salary of $55K / 190 days = $290 a day.

    At $290/day, a worker with 3 weeks vacation and 5 federal holidays (52wks – 3wks – 5days) would work 240 days with a $70K salary. Not rich, but not poverty; and that’s the average.

    Let’s not talk health benefits.

  • TheTruthHurts

    By the way, average salary in Oakland = $42K and average household income is $44K.
    http://www.simplyhired.com/a/local-jobs/city/l-Oakland,+CA

  • TheTruthHurts
  • livegreen

    According to the article in #20, at LASD teacher dismissals must be approved by a Review Commission. Is that how it works in OUSD?

  • J.R.

    Here are some facts on OUSD teacher salary situation:

    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/92510/archives/2010/03/04/some-hard-truths-about-oakland-teachers

    And yes, substandard teachers make just as much as good and great teachers(which is a shame). Great teachers are under-paid and the substandard teachers are way,way over-paid.

  • J.R.

    I’ll have to look and dig up the link but there is a good article that covers the dismissal issue, and the fact that over a ten year stretch in all of California there were just about one hundred teacher dismissals for incompetence.Here are some others:

    http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/06/devil_in_details.html

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1859505,00.html

  • Nextset

    Livegreen: Of course they are not all the same. I am satisfied they are the same in their turnout of the black students in the bottom 90%. The white students can take care of themselves, the few that remain.

    The statistics on the black students of Oakland Unified are very bad. I don’t think OUSD or Los Angeles Unified are trying to do anything to keep black students socially and economically mobile – and in fact are only running a Romper Room to keep them happy and complacent.

    What I want to see is a district that will flunk and expel students that won’t some to heel – and will actually prepare the black students who are trainable for military, industry and higher education. I suppose I want some sence that black students who actually graduate from these places are ready for work, job training, military enlistment or have a good sense of readiness for higher ed and a correct understanding of it’s requirements and their own aptitude for it.

    A high percentage of black “graduates” are roadkill or are deer in the headlights for what comes after High School. Yes a high number of them are headed for unemployment, prison and an early grave.. We don’t have to maximize that number by teaching bad attitudes, crazy entitlements, and ignorance of the world at their feet and it’s rules.

    I see way too many black kids who don’t have the sense to not put their lawn chairs on railroad tracks. That is easy to fix if the schools have a mind to do so. At least it seems so to me. It won’t be such a pleasant experience for those who are being taught. And I think that’s the problem – there is an overarcing concern that the black students be warm and comfortable.

    Regardless of IQ levels, we don’t have such touching concern about being so nice with the (rich or poor) Asian and White kids. We don’t pander to their racial pride, we don’t tell them they’re victims, we don’t butter up their self esteem. Ghetto districts kill the black kids with kindness.

  • TheTruthHurts

    @ #21 Review Commission is a state requirement and applies to all CA public schools (not charters though).
    http://dropoutnation.net/2010/01/14/teacher-dismissal-problems-the-california-example/

  • Nextset

    typo… sense…

    I’m venting because I don’t like what I see in the courts day after day…. Or what I read about the stats from the school districts.

    This systematic failure did not occur generations ago. Before the “great society” and before the schools were so comfortable for the kiddies.

  • Turanga_teach

    Katy, there was a well-attended forum on mutual matching last night, put on by OEA. Members discussed the proposed changes in small groups and reported back–many really key questions were raised, and the tone remained civil and respectful despite a great deal of conflicting opinions. Would that the public debate were so measured.

  • Katy Murphy

    I’d love to hear more about the OEA forum — including some of the key questions you mentioned. What’s your opinion on mutual matching? Did it change after the forum?

  • Katy Murphy

    P.S. I’d love to hear from teachers or parents on the subject of mutual matching. If you’re up for an interview, please send me an email at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com and let me know where and when to reach you!

  • livegreen

    Earlier in the week GO also put on a forum, that was after an update from OUSD about the Strategic Plan. There will be follow-ups on both subjects next month…

  • Katy Murphy

    Did you go? If so, tell us about it!

  • wiley

    I was not there but was told that the group report outs were against mutual match- with responses ranging from strong opposition to skepticism and some buzz that OEA leadership might be overeager to agree with some type of pilot inspite of what was expressed.

  • Turanga_teach

    There was a good deal of concern about how rushed the process would have to be in order to make it happen for the upcoming round of reassignments–a historic problem our district, and many large organizations, seem to have is a tendency to “act in haste and repent in leisure”. Individuals who had themselves experienced either the pilot program reported in the Chronicle or reassignment by seniority before Mutual Matching spoke about their experiences. One fairly huge game-changer that is currently linked to the district proposal IS the removal of actual teacher salaries and benefits from site-level budgets: there’s a lot to think about with that. A large concern raised by both new and veteran teachers was that this can be framed and interpreted in ways that pit teachers against each other, and we’ve already had enough of that dialogue.

    A fundamental question was, is this a distractor? We all know that education as it plays out right now does not produce the outcomes we ALL want for our children, but is it really so simple as “seniority systems keep schools from getting good teachers”? Is it possible to “MutualMatch” your way into a new teacher who can truly work miracles with an ever-increasing class size of increasingly troubled and troubling students, to implement new curricular standards (the Common Core) that we’ve adopted but can’t afford to support with appropriate materials, within a context that’s pulled back on all the resources (school nurses, counselors, vice principals, school libraries) that used to be an integral part of the school community, and who will happily do that long enough to earn the amazing reward of becoming a veteran teacher whose experience is seen as a liability, not a gift?

    As a colleague observed, “This (mutual matching) is not likely to solve the problems that people think it’s gonna solve.”

  • J.R.

    The education system suffers from multi-faceted problems, and tackling one problem by itself will not solve the entire problem. People need to ask themselves who and or what are the barriers to solving all the problems. When the union drags their feet kicking and screaming opposing every single measure of reform. If it looks like deform(and ultimately fails) the real reason will because we need systemic change, but we are being fought tooth and nail by forces that want and need status quo and only offered slow and incremental change(if any). Ultimately we the taxpayers have to decide, is the education system for the purpose of educating children well(not babysitting) or employing adults?

  • Minnie Paige

    MS. MURPHY – PLEASE POST THIS ONE INSTEAD OF THE COMMENT I JUST SENT A FEW MINUTES AGO, IF IT’S NOT TOO LATE (I FOUND A MISTAKE AND CHANGED A FEW WORDS…) THANKS

    Responses to the three preceding comments.
    To Turanga_Teach (#33): Perfectly put! I completely agree that the mutual matching is a distraction from the real issues that have to be addressed if we’re really serious about quality schools for every student. As “Wiley” says in comment #11, mutual matching is a manifestation of scapegoating “bad teachers” for the root problems in public education.
    To Wiley (#32): I sure hope that the “buzz” you heard was wrong, the buzz “that OEA leadership might be overeager to agree with some type of pilot inspite [sic] of what was expressed” by OEA members at its recent forum. In fact, no teacher I’ve talked with even knew about the first pilot OEA supposedly agred to last fall, which, according to one of its involuntary participants, was extraordinarily demeaning. The first they heard about it was in the Chronicle’s article on mutual matching a few days ago.
    To J.R. (#34): Your claim that “the union drags their feet kicking and screaming opposing every single measure of reform” could not be more wrong! OEA has consistently called for the “systemic change” you say, is needed. They’ve expressed it at countless school board meeting, rallies, fliers, in bargaining, etc., for nearly a decade now. Go to OEA’s website, oaklandea.org and click on the “Create Success” link near the top of the list on the right. It takes you to a list of “ten proven ways to ensure student success.” That’s OEA’s vision for fundamental change. But that vision hasn’t received any of the media attention given to mutual matching and other phony reforms. Maybe that’s because it’s just the opinion of “bad teachers,” as opposed to the wisdom of education experts like Bill Gates and Eli Broad.

  • J.R.

    Minnie,
    The saving grace is that with computers and the internet, taxpayers can do their own research, find out who is doing what with tax money, and what the real truth is. The people who pay the bills will decide for themselves, and there is no greater freedom than that. What unions or reformers say don’t matter much, it’s what they do that counts. Just a reminder, this district has struggled for decades before Gates and Broad so that excuse is no excuse. The proof is in the results or lack of same. That isn’t a hard concept to understand, now is it?

  • Minnie Paige

    J.R.,
    It’s ironic to encounter such a condescending question at the conclusion of such a thoroughly muddled comment.

  • J.R.

    Minnie,
    All you need to understand is that the taxpaying public can and will make up their own minds about these educational issues(whats the cause of the problem, and how to fix them), and not be swayed by any special interest groups.

    http://www.aei.org/events/2011/06/08/special-interest-teachers-unions-and-american-education-event/

    Decades of the same lack of performance has exposed most of the union arguments as questionable. The district hierarchy is not any better, being too big, cumbersome,expensive, and possibly unnecessarily overstaffed.

  • MissMatched

    Some thoughts on Mutual Matching and some of the comments made herein, possibly a bit rambling since I’ve been writing it over a few days, but I think the substance speaks for itself:

    First of all, it is nonsense to suggest that principals have no say over their staff. In fact, while they may “inherit” a staff when they first arrive at a school, they are largely, and often unilaterally, responsible for selecting new staff. While a school with only new teachers (less than 4 or 5 years in OUSD) might, in theory, lose everyone in a mass layoff scenario, such as almost happened last spring, in most schools, it might be one or two positions out of dozens or even a hundred or more at the big high school.

    It is time to stop thinking schools as some sort of franchise setting of OUSD, where the principal is the “boss” of a business. This is why the business model does not work. I worked at one school for 10 years; we had four principals. The average duration of a principalship in OUSD is about 2-3 years. Teachers usually stay at a school much longer than administrators. Or at least they used to, prior to the introduction of these “planned obsolescence” programs, like Teach for America, where the teachers arrive with the intent of leaving 2 years later. One TFA at a school in OUSD left at winter break and did not even finish the semester.

    I like the *theory* of “Mutual Matching,” because it sounds like everyone should be active in selecting the school and the new teacher. But, the reality and practice of MM is probably going to play out quite differently if and when it is implemented.

    I see no protection against favoritism and bias. I have seen, in almost every principal I have ever worked with (and at 21+ years of service to OUSD, I have probably had more than a dozen different administrators), and I have seen opportunities go to their special pets, their friends, and in the case of one administrator, members of her family and her church. I also feel that most principals will not hire a teacher who is significantly older than they are. In my current situation, I am probably 17 or 18 years older than my principal, and have twice as much experience as an educator. And I am the only one on the staff who is. Coincidence? I don’t think so. All of the new positions on our staff this year (a full third of the teachers left voluntarily at the end of the spring 2011 semester) were filled by TFAs or teachers with 3 or fewer years of experience, all many years younger than the principal (and several decades younger than me). To be honest, I would like to see some “Mutual Matching” when assigning principals to a school, and making the administrator more beholden to the staff.

    I watched the videos on the district MM link, and saw our new Associate Superintendent of Human Resources, talk about teachers (and presumably all employees) as “Human Capital,” which I find demeaning and insulting. She also seems to feel there will be very few “unmatched” teachers. However, I think there will be many, and these will be, by and large, teachers at the higher end of the salary schedule. Although she says that teacher salaries would be subsidized up to the average salary, those of us at the top, make $15k more than the average, so it only really mitigates the financial impact for teachers up to maybe about 10 years of service. It is so strange to work in a district where experience is actually a liability rather than an asset, and where people actually assume experience = incompetence.

    It is important to consider that while there are some teachers who might not be “matched” with any school, there are also schools that will also not be matched, so, as Gordon noted above, there will, inevitably, be some folks who are just placed.

    And rather than kicking to the curb the teacher who may not be an effective classroom teacher, why not give these often very talented and knowledgeable teachers opportunity to work in curriculum, professional development and assessment. Most have a wealth of information that can ONLY come from years of experience. Yet, I see more and more teachers with three or four years of experience becoming trainers, or being given non-classroom assignments in these areas, where they have such limited experience.

    As someone whose position was eliminated due to budget cuts, and who was offered and forced to choose from a short list of positions I would not have chosen voluntarily (or I could have quit, as I am frequently reminded), I can certainly agree that the current system does not work very well. However, as Churchill once said about democracy; “It’s the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

    Having given more than 21 years of my life to OUSD, I actually do feel “entitled” to continue working. I have worked damned hard, taken advantage of every opportunity, and been considered by most administrators to be one of the finest teachers in the district, although my current assignment is not one I would have chosen. Because of this, I have applied for many positions for which I would probably be a better “fit,” but, I am guessing that, at least in part due to my salary, which is at the high end of the salary schedule, I have been passed over for far less qualified teachers in term of experience, credentials, knowledge, expertise and recommendations. This reflects the deep-seated inequities built into our current system but I am not sure would be at all mitigated by MM.

    There is simply no guarantee that the teacher will be a good fit, or the teacher will want to work at the school. Like most complex relationships in life, the only way to tell is to try the situation out. And I would say that Mutual Matching, if an when it is implemented, will be probably no more likely to produce “matches made in heaven” than the current system.

    I also feel that many of the objections to seniority are made by those who do not have it. Teachers do need job protection. Unions exist to protect their rights, including what happens if a school closes or position is eliminated, but the truth is that every protection of teachers’ rights, is also a protector of children’s rights, such as class size, to name the most obvious example. Thirty-two kids per class at the high school level is 160 kids per day. And it is an insane number to deal with. (Just consider, if a teacher spent only 5 minutes per student grading papers, that is over 13 hours. How many times per week can a teacher realistically do that? While it is true that not all 160 kids will turn work in, it is wrong to assume that the non-turned in work does not all take teacher time, such as speaking with the student, tutoring, and/or calling home.) Kids get much less attention than with a more manageable number. Yet if this were not built into the contract, classrooms would soon be standing room only (and I can’t even count the number of times I have not had enough desks or chairs for all students during the first few weeks (18 school days) when they are still “balancing” classes, and I have had 40 or more in the room.)

    I do NOT want to see a mass layoff of first /second / third year teachers each year. But it is no less wrong to lay off more experienced teachers who may have deeply invested in OUSD. The trouble is that we are fighting over the crumbs of a crumbling and inequitable system, instead of challenging the system to change and create a system where teachers can serve students (not clients) and their families in an environment that stimulates effective teaching and active learning.

    And finally, a few other matters worth addressing in this general context: what is the definition of a great teacher, or even a reasonably good one? (And how many of the teacher-bashers on this blog would last long in a classroom? And how many excel at their jobs?). I think there are many ways to be a good teacher, and even good teachers have bad days; maybe bad weeks, sometimes bad years. It is hard to be consistently excellent, five shows a day, five days a week, 180 days per year (at the secondary level). The insistence on only “great” teachers, as opposed to good or even competent ones,, and all this nonsense about “value added” teaching really does very little to help improve the lives of students, who themselves also play a part in their own academic success.

    Teachers should not be criticized, as I have seen in this very blog, for example, for leaving when the dismissal bell rings. How do you know where I am going? Maybe to pick up my own children. Maybe to the gym, so I can maintain my health. Maybe to a work-related meeting off-site. Maybe to sit in a café, rather than my windowless classroom, to grade papers and plan in more pleasant environment. Or maybe just to have a moment to myself. The idea, in general, that teachers who even presume to have a life beyond the classroom, are somehow lazy or unproductive or don’t care is an idea that needs to be thoroughly discredited. And the idea that our work day is only 6 hours long, also ridiculous. I literally put in 30 hours a week OUTSIDE the classroom, as well as working through lunch most days. (Maybe once a month, I actually do something for myself during lunch, but usually… I don’t have time!). Contrary to what some believe, it is simply untrue that after the first few years, there is little to do outside instruction. For one thing, I do not know many teachers who wind up with the same assignment, class, content area, grade, year after year. Expectations change. Standards change. Technology changes. The district changes its mind about “scorecards,” and “dashboards,” and promotion requirements, ad nauseam, all the time. The job is simply endlessly, relentlessly demanding.

    It is a very complex job. It takes years to learn, and even then, challenges will come up in new and unexpected ways. Mutual Matching will not guarantee the perfect teacher nor the perfect school to work in. It will, however, undermine seniority, and create more and more schools with all or mostly less experienced teachers.

    How about this headline: “OUSD Releases All Experienced Teachers and Replaces Them With Beginners.” Because that is the way things are going.

  • TheTruthHurts

    How will Oakland ever teach its children to be innovators with a system so outdated, so backward and so resistant to change it can’t even accept the concept that schools should choose who works with the children they serve?

    Oakland is doomed and it brings me no pleasure to say that.

    Surely, whatever the proposal, it has logistical and substantive shortcomings. Once again, elusive perfection is the enemy of progress – for ‘progressives.’ Go figure.

    I’m sure whatever is on offer is no panacea. More likely, it’s a relatively innocuous incremental step – far less controversial than rewarding excellence with pay, firing poor performers or God forbid giving direct attention to a teacher’s contribution to student performance.

    No, whatever this mutual match is, it doesn’t get at the heart of the issue – how to improve the performance of individual teachers and the profession as whole. They’ll never get to these third rail issues because they can’t get to the first rail because they’re off the tracks in a ditch.

    Meanwhile, they’re competitors have stronger engines, are more agile and see innovation as part of the job.

    Guess where the parents will go? Hmmmm?

  • Oakland Teacher

    To “MissMatched” #39 – Thank you so much for taking so much time to write that. You pretty much covered all of my concerns about mutual matching, as well as those that were discussed last week at the forum.

    I would like to think that most of my principals would have chosen me, but the reality is that there is a lot of preference given to younger teachers these days. They are young, attractive, energetic, inexpensive and it is presumed they will never ask for a decent contract, never ask for the current contract agreements to be upheld, or disagree with a principal.

    The reality is that they won’t stay long either, as they will soon be off to law school or whatever they decide they really wanted to do. Or they will move back to wherever they came from. And while they are fun to be around and well liked by all, they are not as a whole, any better than the average experienced teacher.

    I remember how about 15 years ago there was such an outcry (“no fair”) over how all the high scoring schools had all the experienced teachers. Now nearly every school/principal is scrambling to have just the opposite. Amazing!

    I do have to agree that the elephant in the room is teacher evaluations and how to have them be meaningful and result in improvement in student achievement. Mutual matching is not the answer to that issue though.

  • J.R.

    I am afraid that with all the recalcitrant and juvenile unprofessional attitudes, Nextset may just be right. All the parents and children that have the ability to leave OUSD, will leave the district. Truthhurts is right as well, these people hold on to status quo with a death grip, and they will take all of us along for the ride.

  • Catherine

    MissMatched: I think your question of what makes a good teacher and what makes a bad teacher is an interesting one. Many experienced teachers dismiss the CBEST and CSET as culturally biased tests that do not measure potentially good teachers. But my sons both have had teachers in elementary and middle school who did not know the subjects they taught. Specifically fourth grade English grammar (did not correct any writing), third, fifth, seventh grade science and third, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade math – including algebra and fifth and eighth grade social studies which focus on the creation of America, the constitution and couldn’t pass the citizenship test (both teachers were born here).

    When the teachers do not know the content, cannot answer student questions and cannot hold class discussions all of the classroom management, nice person and other great qualities are worth little.

    I really wish that teachers had to pass the CSET and CBEST if they change the grades they teach. The teacher would have at least been exposed to the material they are required to teach.

  • Peach

    Again, Catherine you relate important, endemic issues in OUSD. While teachers should be conversant in their subjects, the school district has consistently dropped the ball in ensuring teacher knowledge and classroom resources.

    Besides cyclical reading initiatives (and sometimes Math programs) that are pushed by outside interests, the district leadership has not provided ongoing information or resources to those who teach students.

    Periodically, a few teachers in pilot schools will receive support in the teaching of writing or history from UC Berkeley, with sustained professional development by invitation only. There have been years when a single educator in Curriculum and Instruction had the responsibility to provide orientation to all new K – 12 teachers in each of these important subjects – Second Language Learning, Science, Social Sciences, Modern Languages, Physical Education, and the Arts.
    Teachers have to fend for themselves and depend on their peers to find out what subject and grade level expectations are when they move from position to position. At the schools with small staffs and high turnover, there are few on-site funds of knowledge a new person might tap into.
    The community continues to demand teachers that are knowledgable in their subject areas, and also demands that school district leadership and site administrators provide the leadership, resources, and guidance that lead to strong subject area instruction for OUSD students.