Wednesday, September 11, 2013

SFUSD OVERDUE FOR NEW LEADERSHIP

I changed the title of this post, but not the post itself which was published on 9/11/13 after a couple of people asked about the weird title.


As a parent of two SFUSD students and as a self-styled observer and activist, I've been watching SFUSD for a decade now. A former teacher who turned stay-at-home dad for family reasons, I was involved in education before my first son entered kindergarten in 2004. That did not prepare me for the entity that is SFUSD, though it did give me some insight into the political and financial structure of  the public schools and their unions.   During these ten years I learned that, despite the hype to the contrary, SFUSD only changes when it is forced to do so, that is, when ordered by a court or State and Federal governments. In this district reform is all about talking and little action.  What reform has taken place is confined to a small group of schools in the so-called Superintendent Zones while the other 90% languish, that is  reform for a few at the expense of the rest - and very, very expensive reform to boot without much achievement gains to show for it.

In this district, unlike in San Diego or LA, the forces of reform are kept safely at bay from the Superintendent and by his subservient Board of Education, both of whom  answer to their political compatriots, United Educators of San Francisco. The BOE and the administration constitute a union-driven machine designed to protect the status quo - themselves.  So what else is new?  This Board will never be a democratic forum where the larger issues of education are discussed, debated and dissected for the public's benefit. It is a place where agreement and unanimity are prized above all. It is a place where the alternative voices for student achievement and fiscal responsibility are squashed and where the phrase "all for one and one for all" gives new and ominous meaning to Dumas' jovial entreaty.  This Board is not a  place where the community's elected representatives test and review in the public's interest the appointed czar's programs,  but where that czar and his minions on the Board reject such inquiry and scrutiny. Their idea of debate is disagreement over what salad  dressing to serve at the annual retreat to Marin. When they do take issue with the union it is usually out of hubris - a need to assert their authority and seeming independence. What a sad little game!
 

Having dragged myself to several board meetings over the years, it didn't take long to realize that this BOE treats public comment like dog excrement - something to be picked up with a disposable plastic glove and nimbly discarded in the closest public trash can (for fear of stepping in it). But there's an old saying of admin insiders - "board members are like mushrooms, covered in manure and kept in the dark".  This dyslexic board has forgotten that the Supe works for them, not the other way around. So , for example, when they  jump up and down about what a great success are the Superintendent Zones, despite the  incredibly tepid results to the tune of sixty-plus million dollars  while, simultaneously, achievement stalls in an otherwise  cash-strapped district, these abecedarian leaders resemble cheerleaders more than real leaders.  Our students may be getting short shrift outside the Superintendent Zones, but hey, let's put on a happy face and jump for joyful learning! Now that's entertainment! On with the show!

This is what happens when sell-outs inhabit public office  - profligate spending without due consideration for each dollar's maximum benefit. It's all in a day's work, everyone else's work, that is. These commissioners view  student assignment and the  education of our children as an experiment in social engineering and race relations, rather than a  solemn fiduciary duty to each child in empowering them towards academic achievement.  This is what happens when you have leaders whose main purpose is to keep the union calling the shots, create an appearance of success such that UESF will fund their next campaign for public office. When the new millions from the Governor's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) starts to flow, do you think we'll see any strategic use for it or do you think it will go immediately to an across the board pay raise for teachers and central staff? That's a rhetorical question.

These commissioners  are patsies whose sole purpose is to keep the current machine running without pesky interruption by the public. As one put it to me, "This is my district, not yours!" All the while they speak of how wonderfully well the district is doing and why they should get reelected. So unless you have been invited to speak on their behalf, the Board's main goal is to turn off your mike as soon as it is legally feasible and sometimes before.  As a result I've often found myself speaking into the thin and rarified air of the boardroom, at odds with a district that does not take kindly to dissent. Finally I decided that I don't want to breathe that fetid air. So what's this Board good for? It excels at driving wedges in world that has made wedge-driving a political art form.

 
Has anyone noticed how little dissent there is in this district? It's almost as if we don't live in a democracy given the stranglehold of the union and bureaucratic establishment on public education in San Francisco. What we have are yes men  or women in charge while parents run amok all over town with SFUSD's family-unfriendly style of public education and student assignment. Keeping up on events is more Car and Driver than Education Week.

In SFUSD there are no organized voices of opposition. Thus one is relegated to play a lonely game of revolt. During this time I've been involved in several major initiatives which included  getting rid of ineffective principals,  challenging SFUSD at the state level to make SFUSD site plans more transparent and putting a neighborhood school ballot measure to the voters, to name a few.  I've had my successes and my failures, but there's nothing new under the sun. All the phony talk about education reform coming from this district only highlights the grim reality that SFUSD continues on little changed from before and in some ways worse.

 
And this is my point. In the last ten years I can't think of a single change from the district that has had an appreciable impact on the classroom if  it hasn't been to increase class sizes and decrease funding, if you exclude the $45M  Federally funded school improvement grant that helped drive the Superintendent Zone project in 9 schools.  After all the hype from SFUSD about being the highest performing school district (it isn't), there's been virtually no major changes of consequence to the students sitting in the majority of classes at this moment. We still have some of the  highest and lowest performing schools, the largest achievement gap,  an entrenched union that offers up nothing except demands for more pay, an employment paradigm that encourages laziness, a system that virtually ignores the community and its parent voices, as well as the same kind of diversity-first assignment system that is singularly responsible for driving out tens of  thousands of middle class families from the public schools over the years, much  to San Francisco's detriment and disgrace as a good place to live.

Instead what we have is the same old-fashioned, industrial and insular education model driven by union protectionism rather than educational achievement, a system unchanged in perpetuity amidst a nation otherwise engaged in massive educational revolt and reform. Like horses with blinders or student's with desk caddies, we fail to look outwards. But we also fail to look inwards and discover that the politically correct course of equity and access first does nothing to drive student performance and indeed hinders it by depriving students funding that could be used for classrooms not bureaucracy.

 
Thus, we are never going to have honest leadership until people rise up against this Board and elect a majority of new members who are serious-minded, results-oriented reformers - new members who will not treat every board meeting as though it were their annual Marin County retreat for some mutual back-patting and  glad-handing - fishbowls followed by lightly tossed $15 a pound endive and radicchio salads over even lighter banal banter.  What I crave is a hearty mixed salad,  with sliced rare  beef and mozzarella balls,  skip the dressing. Well, maybe just a little vinegar.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was a hard right to chest. The champ is reeling. There's another. He's backed into the ropes. Now he's getting pummeled. Multiple shots to abdomen. All he can do is cover and duck. Ladies and Gentleman, the champ is down for the count 8,9,10.

AB said...

Rather than take a leadership position in righting the good ship SFUSD the board is helping re-arrange the deckchairs.

Fact: San Francisco has the lowest percentage of school age children enrolled in public schools compared to other cities.

Fact: San Francisco has the lowest per capita of school age children compared to other cities.

Fact: San Francisco does not have an adequate number of quality public schools.

The Board needs to articulate a clear and actionable vision of success and demand administrative accountability:

Assignment Process: Deliver a transparent enrollment process where parents are provided accurate information and quality school choices. Add more schools and programs to meet student demand.

Quality Academics: Demand greater English and Math proficiency (60.5% English, 67.6% Math is woefully inadequate - target 95% district wide). Leverage local resources to create art, tech, music, science and other academies throughout the district.

I understand that there are many factors that drive families to leave San Francisco or to opt out of SFUSD for private or parochial schools but they are not reasons to accept a sub-standard public school system. We live in one of the most highly-resourced cities in the world - we can do better, our children deserve much better.

Anonymous said...

Who's the champ? What? That went over my head.

Anonymous said...

We are a rich City, don't spend much on schools, don't spend what we do very intelligently, and make those deemed as "rich" suffer with less spending and ridiculous lottery assignments, and at the same time do no benefit to those deemed as "oppressed", in fact L and AA students have lower scores than in Visalia, Fresno, Modesto, every other district of 137 districts in California. Ridiculous.

We need to have a movement to unseat them. San Francisco voters are idiots. They see incumbent, they just vote for them. Incumbents never lose, for supervisor, school board. We rubber stamp the status quo. Even when someone gets on as a reformer, they just drop to their knees to service the status quo.

The champ is the board. Don is knocking them out with flawless logic and intelligent comments. The question is is anyone watching or will voters just rubber stamp the status quo?

Don Krause said...

Palo Alto spends a lot on schools because it is a very affluent college community of mainly homeowners with families or retirees and it has a large tax base relative to its population. In any case it is an outlier. The vast majority of districts, especially the large ones, have been locked into their revenue limit funding and what little can be raised by parcel taxes which have only passed in 10% of districts. As far as spending the municipal dollars on education, sure it would be nice if the City and County of San Francisco gave $100M each year, but tha's not going to happen because the unions that control this city would never allow the city to drain off its funding to another separate governmental entity (SFUSD) which has its own dedicated sources of funding. Sure, they look the other way for small amounts like the rainy day fund, but that's about it.

In any case, you can run an end around play once in awhile, but the solution to funding in SFUSD is not getting the municipality to bail us out. Unless the District can demonstrate that it will spend its funds responsibly, why would anyone agree to pile on more?

If I were sitting on the Board and I had 5% more funding I would agree to zero across the board increases. I would link all future increases to pay strictly on the basis of teacher performance. I would use most of the money to lower class sizes and I would increase the school day by an hour and run a mandatory homework/tutoring period, either before or after school or both. Of course all this is strictly fantasy unless you can break the current teacher contract and rewrite it in a more student achievement- centered manner. Not to forget, the central office would be gutted and only functionaries would remain who are required for payroll and other bureaucratic necessities. All future school assignments would be neighborhood based with the exception of alternative schools. All schools would be given the option to become charters and the surplus real estate would be partially sold off to fund construction of new neighborhood schools in areas that need them.

Now shoot me.

Anonymous said...

Don, you are now on the record as a sworn enemy of UESF. I like your picture. You were a little cutie-pie.

Don Krause said...

I'd like to have a serious discussion.

Sfed

Anonymous said...

UESF deserves everything Don said. They're part of the problem not part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Don, you want to have a serious conversation then brag about your looks from how many years ago then rank all teachers like prize pigs and then fire a bunch if they don't sell out and teach to the corporate test written by Haliburton and then blacklist us so we can't work at another school and take away our seniority and tenure and drive even more of us to suicide. That's what you "would like". We are unified and we will never let that happen to us no matter how much you "would like it." So just realize, you are facing comrades, thousands strong, an army unified against people like you, willing to fight you with everything we have, with power you can scarcely imagine. You will not get what "you would like". Get used to it! You will not oppress us!

Anonymous said...

So now you're an army? What do you teach kids, how to load machine guns? With power you can scarcely imagine? Come on. Delusions of grandeur, anyone?

sfed

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I deleted a comment by 9:58 because she made an accusation of racism without backing it up. Her rationale seems to be that anyone against the current seniority/tenure structure or anyone who favors neighborhood schools is racist. I believe I have shown tolerance for other points of view and I continue to welcome her comments as long as she makes a case for them.

Sfed

Anonymous said...

Might as well be an army, we've killed every stupid idea people like you have had for decades, including your divisive and cruel Proposition H for "neighborhood" schools. Michelle Rhee was your hero until we disgraced her and ran her out of DC like the vicious hateful sellout she is. Now she can't even hold her head up in public, she's one of the most hated women in the country and for good reason, just a horrible person! How far did your sellout buddy Omar get after criticizing us? Thanks for trying, bah bye! You can't attack educators, period. We will win! We have NEVER lost! Ever!

Anonymous said...

WOAHHH I HEARD THAT ONE!!!

AB said...

To 8:44, are you as opposed to student evaluations as you are teacher evaluations? If so, how do you determine whether a student is progressing/achieving/learning in your class and is it something you feel could replace the current testing system?

As you may see in my prior post I believe the SFUSD test results highlight the abysmal level of Math and Language Arts proficiency within the District. I am sure that many parents and maybe an aspiring candidate for SFUSD School Board would welcome a more holistic or relevant means of confirming that our students are being prepared for and inspired to lead fulfilling lives.

Anonymous said...

8:44, sellout from what? She became a teacher and wanted reform. How is she a sellout? Are you saying because she's Korean American she's morally obligated to support teacher tenure and seniority which is hurting black and Latino children even more than others? Does everyone not white have the obligation to agree with your extreme union ideas. Or is it because she used to be a teacher or because she's a woman? I really think positive reform is impossible if we don't reward what benefits children, you seem so rigidly wanting to mobilize against any idea of change.

My question is, do you see anything wrong with the current educational system as is? Do you think it's just perfect and shouldn't change in any way? Do you think huge across the board pay raises like the planned 20% in 3 years will actually benefit children.

Anonymous said...

I want the blog to have voices from different sides of the issues bc this makes for good debate. In the case of the teacher who's been commenting as of late, her voice is hardline and most often without adequate reasoning. This is why I don't find it necessary to refute her. She's her own worst enemy. Those of you who want to make the time to do it, knock yourself out. But I find that she's a distraction from an intelligent conversation of matters that concern the education of our children. If all she has to say is that ANY criticism of the union is unsound, than why bother engaging? Though it is probably a shot in the dark I would like to ask her to give more supporting info to her views rather than insisting she's right without telling us why. I have even agreed with a few of her comments about the trials of working with families in poverty. But when she calls me racist for supporting neighborhood schools, which are the norm in the vast majority of districts, that's just stupid. Let's say I didn't have an interracial marriage and my son didn't go to one of the most diverse schools several miles from my home, even then I would consider her comment outrageous.

Sfed

Anonymous said...

All teachers have the ability or wouldn't have been hired. You can counsel teachers, no one should ever be fired. The point of seniority and tenure is we have the right to teach children in a way that is aware of who they are without pressure to do it my way or the high way by a government that is inevitably controlled by the ruling class.

The rich want compliant pawns in their game. People who love to know which Kardashian is dating whom but don't find time to vote and let "more knowledgeable" people do so for them. They don't believe kids can actually really earn anything more than crumbs coming through our schools, and if they did they would send their own kids to public schools. It is a caste system.

The students I have are struggling to survive. Gunshots, police harassment, rape, molestation, beatings. They know they won't be rich, they know oppression will probably rob them even of a stable home life as was the case when slaves could be sold away from their loved ones, now we give a black man 5 years for minor crimes which weren't even illegal back when white people did them, aren't now, everyone knows most Wall Street guys snort cocaine off hooker's stomachs but never get 5 years in prison for this hateful, rapey, exploitative, sexist practice, but now catch a black doing it or Latino (slavecatcher anyone?) are worth 5 years, convenient, enough to break up and ruin a family because a guy who couldn't get any job over earning peanuts dared to hustle.

My job is more comforting the afflicted, helping them cope with hard lives, helping them learn to think for themselves, showing them someone cares, showing them all white people aren't in agreement with their oppression. These kids have a wall up, it's hard to break past. You can't do it by ranking children like prize pigs and obsessing over their passing some test. If I could be fired because I don't believe in that idiotic test, I would not have freedom.

It's like holding a gun to our heads saying, lie to the oppressed, tell them if they study hard they'll do well, make sure they can read and write so we can exploit them. If you tell the truth, we'll shoot. The whole system is so appalling I will always resist it. I wouldn't be doing a good job if I lied to these kids. These Asian kids are just selling out and studying so much they end up committing suicide in record numbers so that they can have their jobs outsourced to India for peanuts. America is one big explotation farm. Threatening to fire us for telling the truth is what would happen if we could be fired. The best teachers would be fired first.

AB said...

I applaud 11:58 for caring about the student as human being, not a mere statistic. But, does developing a sense of self-worth come at the expense of learning basic life skills (English and Math proficiency)?

Testing does not require students to compete to the death - done right it provides a critical feedback loop that lets teachers, students, parents, and administrators know what is working, what needs to be improved. And yes, it can identify students and teachers that need help improving. If you don't like the tests - fix them. If you don't like the system - change it.

To SFed's point - if the 'teacher' only spouts a hardline stance and does not present a reasoned alternative it's time to move on and discuss the issues with those that are willing to present a thought-out or researched position, regardless of side.

I appreciate the forum - look forward to learning more about the issues and participating in the discussions.

Anonymous said...

What good are math and English skills if on your way home you are terrified you will be raped, beaten, maimed or killed and your father is in prison? You must create social equality before you can judge people on test scores. Judging people, prejudice, is what got us into this terrible situation in the first place. These kids have a complex, they know they aren't wanted. If reasoned means raking us and making us have to teach under fear of being fired, you can forget it, we always have and always will squash such ideas like a bug. We have the money. We have the consultants. We have the experts. Frame it any way you want, we'll frame it in a way that will win. Arnold tried to pass a law to change tenure. Now he's an afterthought. He lost big time. Prop H, prop Arnold-hates-teachers, any prop you name, we will defeat it.

Anonymous said...

How do you solve poverty without skills? The whole idea of school is to help kids in poverty have a better life. I agree our school system isn't great at it but I can't imagine a better way to keep the poor poor than say just because you live in a tough neighborhood, I'm going to spend all the time I should spend teaching you asking if you're OK and feeling sorry for you. Besides, Asians live in those neighborhoods and are going to UC, you're painting a ridiculously exaggerated picture if you're saying it's impossible to do well in school because every minority is constantly being shot and raped and beaten. Give me a break lady!

Anonymous said...

She doesn't represent how most of us think. she's one person with ridiculous ideas about teaching and our union. The sooner we get rid of teachers like her the better for teachers and the better for students.

Anonymous said...

Traitor! You are a Bennedict Arnold! You are a disgrace to teachers. You are letting them divide us one against another which makes it easier to defeat us. We must unify! There are no bad teachers! We have challenges and fight them as well as we can! We do our best!

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to engage in censorship. But I do want to caution people. It may very well be that she's just playing a game with us, using this extremist persona as a foil. I almost wish that were true since it is really hard to wrap my mind around the idea of her otherwise. But even if she's for real, it would be better not to indulge her teenage fantasies.

sfed

Anonymous said...

I'm curious. What grade do you teach?

AB said...

Parents have voted against the BOE social engineering policies by leaving SFUSD (as evidenced by lowest per capita school aged children and highest percentage private school enrollment of those that are left).

If a were a dues paying UESF member I would be livid. Instead of working with the BOE to increase SFUSD student population they continue to take positions that drive students from the District which results in fewer dues paying members - a classic example of managing down.



Don Krause said...

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/S-F-losing-kids-as-parents-seek-schools-homes-2367691.php

Don Krause said...

I copied the following from a CA state senate publication. Notice the author's remark about teachers as widgets. This is essentially what our teacher friend is saying when she says all teachers should be treated exactly the same and none are better or worse than others- that they are one.

Check it out here:

Why LCFF Is Not Sufficient

School finance is not the only failed formula imposed by the Legislature on California’s schools, and fixing it is not the panacea that will enable schools to succeed. “Getting Down to Facts” identified other flaws in the system that hinder student success – flaws that if not fixed will continue to burden educators and shortchange pupils. “School governance in California,” the GDTF authors wrote, “is characterized by a hodgepodge of restrictive rules and regulations that often hinder, rather than promote, student achievement.” Many of these rules and regulations are related directly to the categorical programs that the LCFF eliminates. But many more reflect special interest agendas imposed through Sacramento on those who operate local schools. The heaviest burden, and the most harmful if ignored, centers on a school’s most valuable resource – teachers.

Just as the prior school finance system formed a wall of archaic, politically protected laws creating barriers to student success, so do the industrial era, union-empowering rules governing teacher employment. These laws severely restrict local communities’ ability to manage their teachers in ways that best benefit pupils. Ironically, these laws so vigorously promoted and protected by union leaders essentially require administrators to treat teachers as widgets, with not one more effective than the other.

Years of education and experience dictate teacher assignment and compensation – no weight is given to the value an individual teacher brings to a classroom of children. Not surprisingly, “Getting Down to Facts” found that, “The one factor that emerged most consistently across studies as inhibiting local leadership was the difficulty in dismissing ineffective teachers.” Indeed, principals and superintendents “ranked this factor as the most important change that could help them improve student outcomes.” That bears repeating: “the most important change” to “improve student outcomes” is the freedom to dismiss the relatively few ineffective teachers. Despite this clear statement, the “local control” enacted by the Legislature fails to offer this “most important change” to local schools. Just how important is this? Kati Haycock of the Education Trust stated in the Summer 2010 edition of Education Next that “the impact of individual teachers is so great that providing top-quartile teachers rather than bottom-quartile teachers for four years in a row would be enough to completely close the achievement gap.”

If the Legislature truly wants to close the achievement gap, it should extend to school administrators sufficient local control to accurately assess their employees and make hiring, firing, and assignment decisions based on what is best for pupils.

Anonymous said...

I teach middle school, all 3 grades, at a school you people probably wouldn't walk within a mile of. I've had my car broken into 4 times and have been mugged once. I have shown nothing but love for these kids and am good friends with many of their mothers. These kids cannot realistically be expected to compete with wealthier children with all the advantages on tests. Your proposals are horrifying. I'd be punished for taking a job at this school and staying long after seniority would have allowed me to move on. You have no idea what these kids are facing.

It wouldn't be fair to change the rules now as most of us wouldn't have taken the job without the knowledge we could live without the stress of being fired. We do sacrifice a lot of money but our lifespan is 4 years longer than the average person and many of us believe it is because we are on the cutting edge of health because we teach nutrition as part of our jobs, get enough sleep, have time to exercise and don't have high blood pressure due to being threatened with being fired all the time. We don't deserve that stress. It's like starting a game and changing the rules in the middle. Most of us wouldn't have become teachers without seniority. Our union will always fight for it. We will never surrender! If you win there will be suicides and there will be blood on your hands.

Anonymous said...

I hesitate to point out the obvious but weren't you the one who was berating as "annoying" the woman who was Asian and poor and who did have a daughter doing well in school and wanted to have her work hard on drills and workbooks and get her a tutor? If you're saying it's impossible, doesn't this prove it is possible?

Asian kids at these schools (Visitation Valley? MLK? Denman? Everett?) thrive and do better than black or Latino kids at the trophy schools. You make fun of this woman, but her strategy works.

Maybe the idea of changing seniority and tenure and "ranking" teachers on value add is to encourage you to encourage kids who are doing the right thing. You go to the libraries in Visitation Valley and the Bayview and you see lots of Asian kids in there, taking advantage. Maybe that approach would work.

Frankly I don't think these kids doing badly are just helpless in the corner shivering in fear of being shot. I see them, they're hanging out, playing sports, walking around, often in nicer clothes than better students, eating plenty of food, sometimes obese, not starving, just making bad decisions. They're watching TV for hours they could be studying. They're studying with the TV on. They are going to the park instead of the library at lunch and after school. It takes sacrifice, but you should be encouraging this effort.

You're essentially telling your black and Latino children they should focus on rebelling and not worry too much about grades because there's some conspiracy against them, and when Asians prove that it can be done you berate and ridicule them. You should be doing the opposite. You should be pushing every child you teach to study 15-20 hours a week, use the library, turn the TV off. You are a bad influence on these children.

Anonymous said...

11:22, what do you mean "you people"? I thought you said you were white? What does this comment mean? To me it sounds offensive but I'm not sure exactly how. You seem to be attacking a certain type of person as not understanding something. There isn't a part of SF I am afraid to walk around in.

Anonymous said...

The teacher lady is paranoid and I doubt she could pass a psychological evaluation.

Don Krause said...

Me thinks the lady is not reading the news. Even Obama, the most pro labor President since Woodrow Wilson believes in higher standards and tougher enforcement of teacher quality.

Anonymous said...

Methinks the lady is undefeated. Omar, bye bye. Christina, oh so sad, you can't run, I wonder what nasty secrets you had? I can only imagine. Prop H? Bah bye! Arnold's plan, big loser. LIFO is in forever, you can waste your time tilting at windmills if you wish.

Don Krause said...

Lady, do you pay any attention to education in the news? The entire nation with the exception of Iowa and California have been given a waiver from NCLB penalties and in exchange they all have to implement stronger teacher evaluations and loosen seniority and tenure practices and that includes SFUSD where they got a district-only waiver. Of course the whole thing will end up in court anyway, but beginning in mid January the Students Matter lawsuit will begin and this will give teachers what their leaders can't - respectability. I plan on testifying myself at that trial. We are working with Students First and Students Matter. Teachers are not widgets. They are professionals and as such they want professional standards. The reason why the profession has been dragged down in recent years is due to bad leadership. Most teachers want more opportunity. They don't want the good ones to have to subsidize slackers like yourself!

Don Krause said...

Los Angeles, CA – Yesterday afternoon, the nonprofit group Students Matter sponsored a groundbreaking lawsuit against the state of California and the California Department of Education to strike down outdated state laws that prevent the recruitment, support and retention of effective teachers. The lawsuit focuses on improving overall teacher effectiveness because of the critical role teachers play in their students’ lifetime achievement.

The lawsuit asks the court to strike down state statutes related to the guarantee of permanent employment after only minimal and cursory reviews; bureaucratic procedures that make it prohibitively expensive and time‐consuming to dismiss ineffective teachers; and Last‐In First‐Out (LIFO) seniority‐based layoffs that ignore teacher effectiveness. Unlike many previous education lawsuits brought against the state, the lawsuit sponsored by Students Matter would impact all school districts throughout California.

Students Matter consulted with a range of education experts and organizations in the development of the lawsuit to determine how to best bring about improvement in student achievement, and has formed an Advisory Committee which includes Alliance for a Better Community, Students for Education Reform, Democrats for Education Reform, Parent Revolution, Students First, The Education Trust‐West and New Schools Venture Fund (partial list).

Theodore J. Boutrous and Theodore B. Olson, two of the lead attorneys who are fighting to overturn Proposition 8 in federal court on behalf of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, head up the Students Matter legal team.

“These state laws create inequalities by depriving students taught by ineffective teachers of the fundamental right to education guaranteed by the state constitution, and they have a disproportionately negative effect on low‐income and minority students, ” said Mr. Boutrous. “The statutes prevent school administrators from prioritizing or even considering the interests of their students when making employment and dismissal decisions. The number of grossly ineffective teachers is small, but their impact on students is enormous.”

Studies show that teachers have the greatest impact on students’ lifetime achievement. Students taught by effective teachers are more likely to attend college, attend higher‐ranked colleges, earn higher salaries, reside in higher quality neighborhoods, and save for retirement. According to one of the nation’s foremost economists, teachers near the top of the quality distribution can get an entire year’s worth of additional learning out of their students compared to those near the bottom.

Students taught by grossly ineffective teachers suffer lifelong problems and fail to recover from this disadvantage. One recent study found that a student who is taught by a single ineffective teacher remains “stuck below grade level” for years to come. Another recent study found that replacing a grossly ineffective teacher with even an average teacher would increase students’ cumulative lifetime income by a total of $1.4 million per classroom taught by that teacher. (See http://studentsmatter.org/resources/)

Don Krause said...

“The mission of Students Matter is to help improve student achievement in California by enhancing the overall teaching environment,” said Students Matter founder Dave Welch. “We are challenging a system that was fashioned by special interests and has burdened our schools with an inflexible environment for hiring and retaining the best teachers. This system is not designed to benefit students, and that’s unacceptable.”

The lawsuit also names the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Alum Rock Union School District as defendants in the claim. Recent reports estimate that in the Los Angeles Unified School District alone, there are approximately 1,000 or more teachers who are grossly ineffective; these teachers are responsible for teaching on average 30,000 or more students annually. In a recent survey, 68 percent of teachers reported that there are grossly ineffective tenured teachers currently working in their schools who should be dismissed for poor performance.

High poverty schools serving predominantly Latino and African‐American students often have a disproportionate share of the least effective teachers. A recent study of the LAUSD found that a low‐income student is more than twice as likely to have a low value‐added English Language Arts teacher as a higher income peer, and 66 percent more likely to have a low‐value added math teacher.

“Achievement gaps will persist unless we can reform an educational system that results in our highest need students often being taught by the least effective teachers,” said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust‐West. “ETW strongly supports the efforts of the plaintiffs in this suit to challenge and fix the state laws that allow these inequities to persist.”

Students Matter is committed to ensuring that all of California’s children receive a quality education. Numerous studies show that teachers have the greatest impact on student achievement. Teacher effectiveness has more impact on student achievement than class size, education spending, teacher pay, or student demographics/background. Students Matter is filing a lawsuit to dismantle the outdated and unsuccessful laws that prevent the recruitment, support and retention of the most effective teachers, so that all our children can have access to a quality education. For more information, please go to studentsmatter.org.

AB said...

And there you have it - good teachers make a difference, a $1.4M difference.

"The number of grossly ineffective teachers is small, but their impact on students is enormous.” Imagine the boost to teacher morale if these grossly ineffective teachers found more suitable employment.