Clipper Joint?

Everyone is gaga over the new Baltimore teachers contract in this Washington Post Robert McCartney column but I can’t imagine they had time to read it since it’s pretty hard to find. Jay Mathews’ link, for instance, is to a flyer on ratification (maybe that’s a sly subversive joke?).  And because I’m sure everyone would be more measured in their takes given what’s in (and not in) the actual document.   Jay does to his credit, however, note the ambiguous nature of this.

But if you dig around enough it is there (pdf). You can judge for yourself if it’s as bold as the D.C. contract.  I think it’s fine, a step forward for Baltimore, and has some potential but not as far reaching as the D.C. contract based on, you know, what’s actually in the two agreements rather than how it’s being described and subsequently characterized based on talking points etc…It’s basically a promissory note but without the all the promise parts.  It could get really bold as it’s actually developed, the record on that is mixed and New Haven was a pleasant surprise.  But, it’s being overplayed right now and the political reasons for that are obvious.

Timing I: By the way, wasn’t the time for the Baltimore superintendent (and for that matter lots of urban superintendents), who I like and admire for among other things his thoughtfulness, to jam the union when they would have agreed to just about anything under the sun in order to make  Michelle Rhee look bad?  Now that the D.C. election is over and she’s seemingly on her way out what’s the point besides allowing a few people to make uninformed cheap shots?

Timing II: It’s a little inconvinient for all the Baltimore schools superintendent ‘Andres Alonso is so different than Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein’ types that there he is in the Washington Post today with a new op-ed saying, well, the exact same things as Rhee, Klein and host of other urban superintendents.

16 Replies to “Clipper Joint?”

  1. So everyone else is taking “uninformed cheap shots” based on talking points, but Andywonk would never do that. How is it that no one else has had the time to read it, but you have? And at what point did you become an expert on labor agreements and the complexities therein.

    I guess you won’t be happy until there are no teachers unions. And anything less than that isn’t good enough.

  2. If you travel along Southern Ave between Prince George’s County, MD (home of Dr. Hite) and South East Washington DC (home of Michelle Rhee) you will find the low performing schools just off the avenue.
    Travel that area late at night and you will see more in the dark that helps you understand why these schools are low performing.

  3. The article notes several times that this reform in Baltimore will lead to some generic idea of “change”. If it wanted to berate Rhee’s reform, it maybe should give some attempt at thoughtful comparison.

    “Teachers earn more based on student performance, teacher evaluations and courses they take that are related to improving instruction.”

    Sure, except that the movement through these advancing titles is not directly based on student performance (the agreement references an undefined improvement program that may go into effect if it gets approved), it allows for college credit to supplement evidence for promotion, and it references other simple criteria for the high end performance levels (a measly 2 proficient evaluations and 10 years of seniority). Not to mention the ascension through each professional level can also be generated by the decisions of a peer review committee.

    “In creating the new pay scale, both sides “actually tried to figure out what are the building blocks needed to help student achievement.”

    And evidence of increasing student achievement is not a building block for helping student achievement? But seniority and politics are?

    “Drawing a contrast with Washington, she said, “The starting point [in Baltimore] wasn’t that the teachers are a problem. The starting point was that the teachers are part of the solution.” ”

    Teachers themselves were never considered the problem. It was teachers who did their job poorly that were the problem. There is an obvious difference of opinion here in the best way to treat teachers that are bad at teaching, but that’s never how this dilemma is phrased. Instead, it’s this “you love teachers or you hate them” nonsense.

  4. “How is it that no one else has had the time to read it, but you have?”

    uuhhh… because it’s his job?

    “And at what point did you become an expert on labor agreements and the complexities therein.”

    What’s that supposed to mean?

  5. I have to say that criticizing Andy for working hard and knowing a lot does not strike me as a particularly winning tactic for people who don’t like his take on things.

  6. Is anyone planning to argue in favor of the Baltimore contract being more than spin or is this just going to evolve to the usual Eduwonk comment thread where people toss around the standard set of batshit crazy assertions about corporations, media, union busting and God knows what else?

  7. “and God knows what else?”

    Perhaps Phillip likening the Baltimore contract to a penis, Billy Bob blaming TFA for …something, and Linda opining for the 1000th time on why teachers are important.

  8. 1001:

    The teacher is important because frequently she’s the only one who will show up to teach the kids in the inner-city classroom.

    If authentic reform is to happen, it will be because of her.

  9. The stock market is going up again and along with it there is a positive turn for teachers. The other day “Dr. Phil” praised teachers as having the toughest job in the US and today I saw “Teach” with Tony Danza.

    Mr. Danza is doing what few others (and certainly no “reformers”) would dare to do: He’s teaching a real high school class while being filmed. And guess what, it’s not easy!!!

    Thank you, Tony Danza and A&E. Teachers need this badly and we need it right now!

  10. I recently spoke with a colleague about “Teach.” It is great that Tony Danza is taking this on. He is not only showing society how hard it is to teach, but it is a good way for new teachers to see how easy it is to make mistakes. I think we all have had similar situations and made similar mistakes in our first year.
    It would be great for teachers to be recognized as professionals by society instead of being identified as servants who aren’t really important enough to value or even pay for the extremely time consuming job we do.
    I am still confused as to why it is so hard to fire bad teachers? Any other employee in the professional world would be fired for not doing their job. I don’t think tenure should make teachers so “untouchable.”

  11. Constance, many people are confused about tenure because of what has been written in the press. Here are the facts:

    In the first place, teachers do not receive true tenure in the sense that college professors do. What they do have is “due process,” or the same job protections given to almost all govenment employees, such as police officers, social workers, librarians, postal workers, firefighters etc. Before due process was granted, many city workers, including teachers, would be dismissed every time a new mayor or board of education member was elected. These leaders would often replace civil servants to make room for friends and relatives. A good example of this just occurred in DC when Michelle Rhee dismissed hundreds of teachers and then replaced them with people from agencies that she is associated with (Teach for America and the New Teacher Project).

    “Due process” is guaranteed by laws, not unions. Basically it means that the worker is entitled to a hearing before he is fired, in order to make certain he wasn’t dismissed for arbitrary or capricious reasons.

    Now let’s get to teachers. 50% resign during their first five years. Many have the sense to know that they are not suited to teaching, but others are “counseled out,” or their contracts are not renewed, at the end of the year. Almost all these people are listed as “resignations.” Because of their contracts, teachers rarely hear the words “You’re fired” in the middle of the year. The only time this happens is when there is a crime involved. or the teacher is so incompetent that she is a threat to the safety of the children. The same goes for administrators. When reporters look at Board minutes they see that very few teachers are “terminated.” I believe this is the source of the myth that a teacher cannot be fired.

    Now take “tenured” teachers (i.e. teachers with permanent status or “due process”). What usually happens is that these people are forced out. The principal will tell the teacher that he is “starting proceedings” causing the person to retire or resign. Administrators will also resort to harassing the teacher by changing grade levels and visiting the classroom frequently. These teachers often resign also and are listed as “retirements” or “resignations.” Because personnel decisions are strictly confidential and protected by law, reporters would have no way of finding out how many “resignations” or “retirements” were really forced dismissals.

    When a teacher refuses to resign, the district must go through a process that takes about three months. If the teacher is really bad, he can be placed on administrative leave while the process takes place. Michelle Rhee proved that when this legal process is followed, it is not difficult to dismiss the teacher. I believe this will prove to be the most important part of her legacy. She disproved the myth of the teacher who can’t be fired.

    So why do many administrators say it is “impossible” to dismiss a teacher? It’s because it takes time and many principals are swamped with other work. Michelle Rhee had to hire extra people to help with teacher evaluations. In my last district there is one teacher who is in a “rubber room.” When I was asked for the details, I was told “No principal will agree to do the job of dismissing this person.” Yes, it does take time. Do we want less for our teachers and other public employees?

    One thing that should now be clear to everyone is this: Administrators hire, evaluate and fire teachers. Unions do not.

    It is of utmost importance that teachers are fully qualified for the important work that they do. Fortunately K-12 teaching is the most self-selective of all the professions. Our problem is not how to get rid of teachers, but how to attract and retain them.

  12. Linda, I wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately it seems more and more administrators are either unwilling or afraid to take out the trash and evaluate poor teachers out of the system. I’m not talking about young teachers still finding their “sea legs”, but those who have been in the classroom 10-20 years doing the same old ineffective crap year in and year out. The ones the unions protect. Is it that administrators are afraid to go up against a tenured teacher? Who knows. As you said, our focus and goal must become attracting and retaining bright, capable, creative, kind, enthusiastic, and well trained educators. Perhaps a merit based compensation system would be one step in that direction.

  13. an important update about the baltimore contract…..teachers are meant to build the future not to ruin it.

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