Assembly Member Joan Buchanan, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, introduced two bills Tuesday that streamline the teacher dismissal process while protecting students, the teaching profession and your professional due process rights. AB 375 would expedite dismissals and ensure due process. The bill also removes outdated references in the Education Code, updates other sections consistent with current school calendars, and clarifies the responsibilities of both school districts and teachers with respect to the appeal process. AB 1338 requires all districts to develop a policy on mandated reporting of child abuse that complies with current law.
The biggest development of the day came as CTA members were carrying on with their scheduled Lobby Day for which the key message was to oppose dismissal bill SB 10. Sen. Padilla announced that he is now dropping SB 10, a bill which CTA opposes, and will instead co-author SB 375. This is a positive step for our members as well as the students you teach.
We are currently going through the normal process of talking to State Council Committee Chairs who have purview of the bills in order to take an interim support position.CTA expects to have a position on the bills soon in order to testify at the first hearing which is set for April 3.
The Winner will receive $20,000 for His/Her School!
Do you think your teacher is deserving of the 2013 Comcast SportsNet All-Star Teacher Award?
Presented by CTA-endorsed credit union, Provident Credit Union, the Award recognizes Northern California teachers at the middle- and high-school levels. They are looking for teachers who go above and beyond in their dedication to their students and who make a difference in their communities. CTA member, Dr. Paul Ricks of Fremont Unified District Teachers Association won $20,000 for Hopkins Jr. High School last year – you can learn more at:
Nominations are being accepted through February 11 for this year’s award, so don't delay. Nomination forms have been distributed to hundreds of schools. The form can also be accessed here as a [PDF] and is available at your Provident community branch. An online form can be filled out and submitted at www.csnbayarea.com as well.
A panel of judges from the community will select five finalists, and online voting by the public for the winner will take place starting in April. Videos and biographies of each finalist will be posted on www.csnbayarea.com for voters to review before casting their ballots. The winning teacher will be announced at a pregame show broadcast by Comcast SportsNet at a San Francisco Giants game this summer.
Today’s education news includes the announcement of Race to the Top grant recipients, with this round of grants going to districts instead of states. California had three winning districts, as EdSource Today reports:
This round of funding was the first in the series of Race to the Top competitions to be made available to individual districts. New Haven Unified in Union City, with about 13,000 students, was the largest of the California winners. Lindsay Unified, in the Central Valley midway between Fresno and Bakersfield, and Galt Elementary District, south of Sacramento, also won. Each of those districts has around 4,000 students. The three districts won a combined total of just under $50 million to implement a range of reforms.
Writing on this blog in the past, I’ve been critical of Race to the Top as a reform strategy, calling it a form of cheap conversion for strong-arming states and districts into ill-advised policy changes. The outcomes reported in some instances have validated concerns about the potential pitfalls of Race to the Top. More recently, I also defended teachers’ unions criticized for withholding their approval for grant applications that called for union collaboration and buy-in.
So today, when I saw that New Haven Unified is among the grant winners, I found myself in a curious situation. I know the president of the New Haven Teachers Association, and when I saw what the grant would do for students in that district, it sounded pretty good (quoting again from EdSource Today):
New Haven Unified had one of the strongest applications in the country, ranking second out of 351 applicants. The district was awarded $29 million. That includes funding for an ambitious technology plan to provide each student in grades 6 through 12 with a digital tablet. Tablets will be provided for students in the lower grades as well, at a ratio of one tablet for every two students. Teachers will also be given tablets and laptops to help with instruction. In addition, the funds will expand programs and activities already under way, including hiring additional literacy, math and assessment coaches to help teachers use data to personalize instruction for students and leadership development.
That all sounds great, right? Too good to be true? I had to know, so I called Charmaine Banther, and wondered how the union president was reacting to the news. She knew what I was thinking: “Everyone’s asking, what did you get us into?” I asked for details about the union’s collaboration with the district management to put together a successful grant application, especially on the teacher evaluation issues. Here’s what she told me:
The district’s joint task force on teacher evaluation started work in the spring of this year, and agreed to work together to support the Race to the Top grant. They have not finalized their teacher evaluation changes, but the union did secure a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that says the task force will negotiate an evaluation system not to be “trumped” by any changes based on the grant, and they included that MOU in their grant application.
The joint task force has agreed to pursue a two-pronged approach to teacher evaluation, with formative and summative components.
The formative component is going to be based on a coaching model. ”That’s what we really want,” Banther explained. ”We’re willing to use data for improvement – will work on that together.” She added that “data” will include all sorts of student work and assessments – created by teachers, schools, the district or the state. The goal will be to engage teachers in efforts to improve teaching and learning, but this piece of the evaluation process will not be used personnel actions or decisions. Banther said that there was no interest on either side of negotiations to move towards a system that would attempt to break down evaluations into quantifiable chunks (20% based on observation, 20% based on student learning, etc.).
The summative component of evaluations – similar to current model of teacher evaluation more prevalent around the state – will remain the tool for the more supervisory aspects of teacher evaluation.
How did New Haven Unified manage to work out an agreement on issues that have stymied so many other districts? I had a guess, and Banther agreed: size matters. All three of the “winning districts” in California are small. Banther leads a union of 650 teachers – that might be the equivalent of staffing three or four high schools in LAUSD. She has eight years of experience working closely with the district’s HR director, and says there’s a good level of mutual trust. ”We’ll be here for the long run, working it out together.”
Education policy makers, and policy watchers, please take note. When you write policies for the whole state, don’t let mega-district dysfunctions be your sole guiding light. Innovative collaborations between unions and districts are happening. You can find some on this blog by searching QEIA, Poway Unified, San Juan Unified, San Mateo Union High School District, and Algebra Success Academy. Enact policies that support that kind of work, and beware of false generalizations concerning “the” teachers union.
So my Race to the Top story for today could end there, except for one nagging problem. These grants will benefit around 21,000 students. I wish them well, but are we going to stop there? Are the students in other districts less deserving? My concerns were similar to those in an email that was sent to me and several other people. Carrie DuBois, a local school board member and delegate to the California School Boards Association, questioned the rationale for Race to the Top, and raised some important issues of equity. Here are some excerpts from her email:
I don’t believe that our schools and teachers fail our kids, but instead as a nation we fail to courageously confront our challenges when it comes to our neediest students. …Just ask people who work with California’s foster children if our education reforms have improved outcomes for the students they serve. You will learn that foster youth continue to have the worst educational outcomes of any subgroup, and California has more foster children than any state in the nation.
… Our students would be much better served if U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recommended that every district in our nation be given a stipend for counseling services or special education funding relief. Another option would be to award $29 million to help fund services for California’s foster youth, homeless youth or court-involved youth instead of funneling the money to one district. This way, our neediest students would get the extra support that they desperately need.
Several months ago, I visited a public school in San Mateo County that serves students who are addicted to drugs. I found amazing teachers there that are totally committed to their students. Schools such as this have abysmal test scores because most of the students are far below grade level. The teachers I met told me they work hard every day just to get their kids reading and writing. I asked why their kids are not proficient and was told it is because their students have all been in and out of many public schools — so many schools that it is impossible to locate all of their educational records. The students grew up with addicted and homeless parents, and these students were abused and neglected.
Who should we blame for this? Should we punish the teachers that these students have had, fire all of the principals that have crossed their paths, and close down all of the schools that have served these kids? This little public school that is doing amazing things for our children would never qualify for a Race to the Top grant.
If we must have a Race to the Top, I’m glad there are districts that can provide good examples of innovation and labor-management collaboration. If we want equity, we must not have a race to the top, and make our actions and policies match our stated expectations.
Ironically, if you engage in some international comparisons, Finland ostensibly is winning any race to the top, without even trying to race – by focusing on equity, consistently, for decades.
New Haven Wins $29 Million Federal Grant
The money, distributed over the next four-and-a-half years, will help the school district establish highly effective learning environments, according to a district statement.
From the New Haven Unified School District
The New Haven Unified School District was named today one of 16 nationwide winners in the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top-District (RTTT-D) competition.
New Haven’s application was ranked No. 2 in the country. The District will receive more than $29 million over the next four-and-a-half years, to personalize student learning, improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare all students to succeed in college and careers.
“This is a tremendous validation of the work that we’ve been doing in New Haven for the past few years, and every teacher, classified employee and administrator in the District should be proud of all they’ve done to make this possible,” Superintendent Kari McVeigh said. “This grant will enable us to extend and expand services and fulfill our mission to help every child reach his or her potential.”
The RTTT-D competition attracted 372 applicants from across the country. Applications were evaluated and scored in independent peer reviews, and New Haven was notified in November that it was among 61 finalists, including only four from California.
"Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these winners can empower their school leaders to pursue innovative ideas where they have the greatest impact: in the classroom," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement released by the Department of Education. "The Race to the Top-District grantees have shown tremendous leadership though developing plans that will transform the learning environment and enable students to receive a personalized, world-class education."
New Haven Unified serves nearly 13,000 students in Union City and south Hayward. The District includes James Logan High School, the largest high school in Northern California, along with seven elementary schools, two middle schools and a continuation high school as well as an adult school. The District also is the founding partner of the Union City Kids’ Zone, a consortium of agencies and organizations working together to provide comprehensive services for the District’s most vulnerable students and their families.
The District will use the RTTT-D funds to build on and expand its comprehensive K-12 reform strategies – known as the Seven Essentials for Continuous Growth and Improvement -- that focus on making sure that students acquire critical literacy and mathematics skills across the entire grade spans. The funds will help the District establish highly effective learning environments for all students, in which teachers instantly access a wide variety of educational tools, content and training aligned with the Common Core State Standards adopted by the State of California for implementation in 2014-15.
“The money will be targeted, so it won’t help us overcome all of the financial challenges that we’re facing after five years of state budget cuts, but it certainly will help us continue the good work we’ve started here,” Superintendent McVeigh said.
Predicated on the belief that quality instruction is the key to achieving District goals, while surrounding students with a network of supports and services, the grant will allow New Haven to expand educator professional development and support services for both students and their families, specifically expanding the work of the Kids’ Zone.
The grant will provide teachers, students and their families with real-time access to student assessments and learning needs while building on the work of the District's Grading and Assessment Task Force and Teacher Evaluation Task Force. The grant will help the District zero-in on its focus on teacher learning and student supports in ways made almost impossible during the last few years of budget cuts.
The District plans to hire literacy, assessment and math coaches for all schools to provide in-classroom coaching in personalized learning for literacy, math and use of assessments. The District will expand summer teacher institutes for reading, literacy and mathematics and would create smaller class sizes for high school English Learners. The District will purchase more K-8 library books and classroom libraries of non-fiction books and would expand online courses for high school students.
The District also plans to purchase mini-computer tablets for every 6-12 grade student and for every two K-5 students, as well as tablets, laptops and document cameras for all teachers. The District will hire additional IT technicians, a data specialist and technology trainers. All of the new technology will be phased in with strong teacher professional development to ensure usage. The District also will expand Library Media positions in every school.
“I’d like to especially thank the New Haven Teachers Association for their partnership in writing the grant application,” Superintendent McVeigh said. “In many districts across the country, teachers groups declined to sign on, wary of the evaluation component, but we’ve been working together with NHTA in this area, and their input and ultimate support was absolutely critical.”
Ms. McVeigh also thanked the Ball Foundation, which adopted New Haven four years ago and has supported the District in implementing many of its initiatives. The Foundation sponsored the District’s application, paying for the grant-writing services of Hatchuel Tabernik & Associates.
New teachers to New Haven have an opportunity to purchase disability insurance from The Standard without a health evaluation. Click here for more information.
Upcoming Meetings and Events
Save the Dates:
January 9, 2013 Rep Council
January 16, 2013 Consult
January 30, 2013 Executive Board
Thank you to all of you that work so hard on this effort!
YES on 30 NO on 32!
Vote NO on 32 - Stop Special Exemptions!
Prop 32, the so-called “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act” is not what it seems. Supporters claim it will take big money out of politics and fix all of Sacramento's problems, but in reality, this measure targets unions - one of the strongest advocates for the middle class in this state - and was intentionally written to give billionaire businessmen and corporate special interests even more political power. It's more appropriately called the “Special Exemptions Act”.
This measure was placed on the ballot by the Lincoln Club of Orange County, the ultra-conservative group that was the driving force behind the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that has led to the explosion of Super PACs.
3 Things You Should Know:
Prop 32 creates special exemptions for wealthy donors and corporate special interests, allowing them to keep spending unlimited amounts through business front groups.
Prop 32 does nothing to restrict secretive Super PACs and their undisclosed donors from spending millions to influence elections in California.
Prop 32 singles out everyday heroes like teachers, nurses and firefighters, by limiting their ability to speak out about critical issues in our communities that matter to us all.
Corporations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade on ballot measures and independent expenditure campaigns in our state. Prop 32, the Special Exemptions Act, does nothing to change that. Secretive Super PACs will become the law of the land in California, with no accountability, checks or balances.
CTA is part of the Alliance for a Better California, which represents more than two million teachers, firefighters, police officers, nurses, school employees, and workers in the manufacturing, retail, construction, health care and other industries. Alliance members are union members and everyday Californians. We're working together to defeat the Special Exemptions Act!
Vote YES on Proposition 30
Take a stand for schools and public safety.
After years of cuts, California's public schools, universities, and local public safety services are at the breaking point.
Proposition 30, the Schools & Local Public Safety Protection Act, will:
Prop. 30 is the only initiative that will protect school and safety funding and help address the state’s chronic budget mess. That’s why Prop. 30 has my vote, as well as the strong endorsement of the League of Women Voters of California and a statewide coalition of education, public safety and business organizations.
Let’s get California back on track. Join me in voting YES on Prop. 30.