Style Section

Baltimore teachers voted down the proposed contract there last night.  Turns out they didn’t like the promissory note nature of it either.

So make sure I have this straight:  Baltimore Superintendent Andres Alonso, who according to the narrative – parroted by Washington Post columnists – is apparently sweet, sensitive, loving, gentle, kind to old ladies, small children, and furry animals, and consequently an embodiment of collaborative-driven change has his contract go down even though it didn’t have many teeth to being with.  Meanwhile, in D.C. the mean and treacherous Michelle Rhee, who according to her detractors is constantly at-risk of having a house fall on her she’s so villainous, gets a genuinely pathbreaking contract passed with the support of 80 percent of teachers in DC.

For God’s sake, no one tell the Department of Education and ruin such a lovely Friday.

9 thoughts on “Style Section

  1. srj

    your myopic obsession with rhee and charters borders on disturbing. apparently unless one of those two reform engines isnt doing the work it doesn’t count. bizarre.

  2. Chris Smyr

    Yeah Andy, posts relating to Rhee or the characterization of Rhee or DCPS reform or the charter school debate are not appropriate topics for an edublogger to comment on. Quit being myopic!

  3. edconsumer

    Sort of reminds me of when the democrats in the Senate caved on half of health care reform only to discover that, oops, the republicans weren’t ever going to vote for it anyway. Shocker.

  4. Joe

    There are many differences between the DC and Baltimore votes. The most important difference, which Andy fails to mention in his smarmy post, is that the teachers in DC knew, in intimate detail, the evaluation tool and value-added metric that was to be used to make promotion/compensation decisions and the Baltimore teachers were voting on a concept. I’d expect more insightful analysis from Eduwonk.

  5. Chris Smyr

    Joe:

    “I’d expect more insightful analysis from Eduwonk.”

    Insightful folks could have clicked the link to Eduwonk’s last entry on the topic and found that his main point there was that “there are many differences between the DC and Baltimore votes”, and that the comparisons between DCPS and Baltimore were based more on talking points rather than the substance of the agreement, which was made abundantly clear when the contract was voted down.

    Feel free to try again at that misplaced condescending attitude, however.

  6. phillipmarlowe

    Here’s the word from a Baltimore City teacher, as I believe their views have not been expressed here or linked from eduwonk:

    A TEACHER’S CASE AGAINST THE BALTIMORE UNION CONTRACT

    The proposed agreement would empower principals, not teachers
    By Bill Bleich
    10:21 AM EDT, October 12, 2010

    What’s not to like about the proposed contract for Baltimore city schoolteachers? Plenty.

    Start with “merit” pay, which will encourage rivalry among teachers. Currently, teachers share pedagogical insights, teaching materials and effective lessons. For most of us, our support for one another is a reflection of our profound concern for maximizing the intellectual growth of the young people for whom we’re responsible.

    With “merit” pay, there will be pressure on teachers to be less supportive of each other and to act in a more self-centered way. We are modeling the adult world to our students. Do we want our young people to learn — from observing our behavior — that backstabbing and unbridled ambition are the best way for humanity to conduct itself? Shouldn’t our goal be to uplift all of humanity, not just a small portion of it?

    Often, teachers are more highly motivated than administrators to serve our young people. The attitude that motivates some people to become principals causes them to focus their time on the requisite coursework for becoming administrators. In contrast, a dedicated teacher may selflessly devote large amounts of time to being the voluntary adviser for a school club, helping to organize social and academic events for the students after school, getting to know parents, and refining teaching strategies and instructional materials with the goal of becoming more effective each year.

    But the proposed contract gives principals tremendous power to choose which teachers advance and which get sidelined. Won’t that lead, in many schools, to a situation where a principal’s favorites are cultivated and rewarded, with little regard for effectiveness, while anyone who opposes the principal on any matter at all — even when doing so for the benefit of the students, like fighting for smaller class sizes — is largely excluded from advancement?

    The proposed contract is effusive about increased “career acceleration,” but in reality major gains will be for a very small percentage of teachers. Linda Eberhart, an administrator who took part in the negotiations, explained that “the cost of the contract over three years would be a maximum of $60 million.” That limited funding would have to cover the following costs (using the most accurate numbers available to the public):

    –$1,500 bribe (“signing stipend”) for each teacher = $9 million

    –2 percent increase in 2010-11 (and continuing in second and third years of contract) = $21.6 million

    –1 percent increase in 2011-12 (and in third year) = $7.2 million

    –1.5 percent increase in 2012-13 = $5.4 million

    –Cost of one “lead teacher” at each of 191 schools in second and third years of contract, assuming an average of an additional $20,000 per person = $7.6 million.

    This adds up to $50.8 million. Only $9.2 million remains to fund all other “increased career acceleration.” If we assume that the average “model teacher” would earn about $15,000 extra — compared to current salaries — and if we assume “model teachers” would be paid at that higher rate in the second and third years of the contract, that means, at most, that about 307 teachers will be allowed to become “model teachers.” In other words, the district CEO will have to guarantee that about 92 percent of the teaching staff is not allowed to achieve either “lead” or “model” status.

    Remember, if this contract is ratified, achieving “model” status will require the highest possible rating (currently entitled “proficient”) for at least two out of three years. This means, to limit the number of “model” teachers, all the CEO has to do is tell principals that they can give top-rated evaluations to only a tiny percentage of teachers.

    The Sun, in its glowing reportage about the proposed contract, argues that “Pay could go up quickly for effective teachers.” Are we to assume that 92 percent of Baltimore’s teachers — whose pay won’t go up quickly — are ineffective?

    The proposed contract is being lauded as a cutting-edge contribution on a national level to school reform and Race to the Top strategies. However, the real centerpiece of these trends is actually something less talked-about: a national curriculum. In all probability, in upcoming years, the MSA and HSA tests will be phased out and replaced with new high-stakes tests aligned with that curriculum.

    For the first time, powerful forces will have highly centralized control of what gets taught in U.S. public schools. Will teachers who dissent from this establishment-backed — and likely corporate-influenced — curriculum be evaluated poorly and denied raises? This is where Race to the Top is headed, and it is another reason why we should not support the proposed contract, which is inextricably tied up with Race to the Top.

    In the current contract, elected Baltimore Teachers Union building representatives are protected when they speak up to challenge the policies of a principal, a course of action that is sometimes necessary when effectively advocating for students, for fellow teachers, and for what’s educationally best at a particular school. Currently, except under very limited circumstances, building reps cannot be involuntarily transferred out of a school. However, the proposed contract takes a significant step backward. It would allow a principal, with the CEO’s approval (probably not particularly hard to acquire), to get rid of a building rep.

    The proposed contract has a provision for investigating a principal who “significantly changes” the proportion of teachers receiving lower evaluations than the year before. That sounds good. However, the proposed contract only stipulates an investigation. It does not stipulate any consequences. And it does not say, even if the investigation finds wrongdoing, that the evaluations must be changed. Let’s be clear. Principals are not elected. They are primarily accountable to higher administrative authorities, not to teachers, students and parents. The proposed contract has the potential to allow principals to become quite dictatorial.

    Many aspects of the proposed contract are not stipulated with much detail, so it’s not certain, but it seems that the proposed contract will actually cause class sizes to become larger. “Lead” teachers, it seems, will be given some leadership responsibilities that may prevent them from having a full teaching load. Similarly, a “Joint Governing Panel” is tasked to “designate the roles and responsibilities that model teachers will assume.” This sounds as if “model” teachers may also be partly removed from the classroom.

    In addition, it seems that some staff members will be spending time outside the classroom as Achievement Unit coordinators. If several people in a school — who each used to have a full teaching load — will be partly or completely taken out of the classroom, all the students that would have been taught by those individuals will have to be added to the classes taught by other teachers. This means that class sizes will grow.

    Class size matters. If it didn’t, why are the classes in advanced programs deliberately kept significantly smaller than other classes (even though all classes should be equally small, not just those for a privileged few)? It’s simple. Smaller classes are better for teaching and learning. However, it seems that the proposed contract may lead to larger classes.

    I strongly urge that teachers vote no to the proposed contract. We can do better for our students and teachers.

    Bill Bleich teaches English and drama at Polytechnic Institute, where he also serves as the elected Baltimore Teachers Union building representative. His e-mail isbrookfarm@verizon.net.

  7. Anne

    phillipmarlowe – Thanks so much for posting that piece. I wish more people actually asked those who voted against this, why? And then respected the responses given, and worked to address concerns. Alonso attempts (or at least claims) to–but then takes jabs in these types of posts. Because being nice is…bad? When did every nice person fail at improving schools?

    Joe – I’m with you. DC teachers knew what they were getting into (and had been working without a contract for three years…and really–80% supported it? What was the turnout like at that vote?). Baltimore teachers did not.

    Chris Smyr – Thinking myself a somewhat insightful person, I clicked on the link to the previous post on the issue. I personally did not feel that it adequately addressed the point Joe made.

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