Retention needs reforms too

Every year tens of thousands of teachers quit the profession.

With approximately 1.6 million teachers set to retire in the next decade, replenishing America’s teaching force should be a top priority. But filling classrooms with new teachers is only half the battle. Retaining them is equally important.

Numerous studies show that teachers perform best after being in the classroom for at least five years. According to a McKinsey study, 14 percent of American teachers leave after only one year, and 46 percent quit before their fifth year. In countries with the highest results on international tests, teacher turnover rates are much lower—around 3 percent.

Few if any corporate education reformer seem to want to address this problem, which is not particulaly suprising. Having high turnover is a mechanism for keeping costs low, by constantly replenishing large percentages of the workforce with younger, cheaper employees. However, for those interested in the critical importance of teacher retention and few interesting articles were published recently that indicated that school management plays a criticl role.

Principal Plays Surprising Role in Why New Teachers Quit

Why do so many beginning teachers quit the profession or change schools? Surprising new research finds it's not a heavy workload or lack of resources that has the most significant effect, but instead the relationship between teachers and their principal.
The study gauged novice teachers' intent to remain teaching and the factors that might influence that decision. Youngs said he was surprised to learn the frequency with which novices met with their school-assigned mentor teachers did not make them more or less likely to continue teaching.

In fact, the most important factor that influenced commitment was the beginning teacher's perception of how well the school principal worked with the teaching staff as a whole. This was a stronger predictor of intent to remain teaching than having adequate resources, the amount of administrative duties the teacher had or the size of their workload.

Another, unrelated article in Forbes, hinted at this too

First, Public Agenda found, at the nine successful schools “principals lead with a strong and clear vision . . . and never lose sight” of their goals. What’s more, “these principals earn trust and respect by engaging and supporting their staff in building the structures, practices and confidence necessary to fulfill this vision.”

Public Agenda, referenced above produced a report titled "Failure is not an Option". It laid out a number of factors that affected success in nine of Ohio's high-poverty, high-achieving schools

Second, according to Public Agenda, leaders of the successful schools “provide genuine opportunities and incentives for teachers to collaborate, and teachers say that collaboration and sharing best practices are keys to their effectiveness.” Most every organization, of course, insists that its employees work together seamlessly. More often than not, they’re mistaken or lying. “Even within the same company,” Drucker observed in Managing in a Time of Great Change, “people tend to resist sharing information.”

Third, teachers at the successful schools “regard student data as clarifying and helpful, and they use it to plan instruction.” In fact, “examining student data and talking about how to address the specific problems it reveals often produce further opportunities for staff to work together and learn from one another.”

In other words, while everyone is held accountable for results, test data is used to help foster a culture of continuous improvement; it is not used as a cudgel. Whenever any organization—whether a school or corporation—turns measurement into an excuse for punishment, Drucker noted in The Practice of Management, it will destroy morale, and employees will invariably find a way “not to obtain the best performance but to obtain the best showing” on the test or audit by gaming the system.

We need to start a discussion on policies that will lead to greater teacher retention - this is far more critical to maintaining a high quality education system than Rube Goldberg mechanisms to weed out a few underperformers.

Education News for 07-25-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • Educators hope to clarify Ohio Lottery profits for schools (News-Herald)
  • Record earnings for the Ohio Lottery have educators worried about public perception of that news. While it is required by law that all earnings from the Ohio Lottery be distributed to K-12 education, the Ohio Department of Education says the breakdown of where that money goes isn’t as simple. According to ODE, there are many possibilities for the extra revenue, and they all depend on state legislators. For instance, a spokesman for ODE said that although the extra money is guaranteed to be given to Ohio education. Read more...

  • 150 Ohio Schools Out Of Compliance With Safety Information (WBNS 10 CBS)
  • COLUMBUS - State law requires schools to turn in safety blueprints to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. According to Attorney General Mike DeWine, more than 150 schools are out of compliance with the law. There are no penalties for schools that do not submit their safety information. DeWine said that prevention is on the top of his safety list. “Law enforcement does not have access to this information,” DeWine said. “Fire and rescue do not have access to this information.” Representatives from more than 250 Ohio schools and communities gathered. Read more...

  • Toledo schools join Columbus in attendance data trouble (Dispatch)
  • Toledo City Schools leaders were wrong to think that they were allowed to “scrub” attendance records to improve their state report-card numbers, a state spokesman said. “We do not allow school districts to manipulate that data to improve attendance rates or test scores,” Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said. “Districts may correct data that they entered incorrectly, but only under a specific set of rules and state laws.” Read more...

Local Issues

  • Court upholds Granville teacher license suspensions (Newark Advocate)
  • Licking County Common Pleas Judge David Branstool upheld a decision by the Ohio Department of Education to suspend the teaching licenses of two Granville teachers accused of falsifying state test scores. In a decision rendered Friday, Branstool affirmed the state board’s decision to suspend for one year the licenses of English language learner teachers Jane Pfautsch and Mary Ellen Locke, over irregularities involving state testing procedures in 2010. Read more...

  • Northeast Ohio schools might be insulated from falling residential property values (Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND — Home values in the Cleveland school district have fallen more than 21 percent in the last few years. They're down 26 percent in the Euclid school district and 33.5 percent in Maple Heights, which had the largest fall in Cuyahoga County. Those drops will mean a tax bite for those districts, but not the budget disaster you might think. The falling values won't bring real tax relief for homeowners, either. The Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office on Tuesday released changes in the residential property values for all school districts in the county after its reappraisal. Read more...

  • Youngstown school board OKs 2 new contracts (Vindicator)
  • Youngstown - The school board approved two new contracts with two unions, both calling for no cost-of-living increases and an increased health-care contribution from employees. The board approved the three-year agreements at a regular meeting Tuesday with the five building-trade unions and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1143. Both pacts run through Jan. 31, 2015. The contracts call for the employees to pay 10 percent of the health-care premium cost. Read more...

  • Marietta board discusses 3rd grade mandate (Marietta Times)
  • Questions and concerns about the state's recently passed third-grade reading guarantee were heard at the Marietta City Board of Education meeting Monday. Director of teaching and learning Jason Smith explained that portions of the guarantee - which requires children to meet a certain level of proficiency in reading or face repeating the third grade - will go into effect in the upcoming school year. However, it is unlikely any students would face retention at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Read more...

  • Middletown school’s pay more for BCESC services (Middletown Journal)
  • MIDDLETOWN — The Middletown City School District’s Board of Education entered into a contract Monday night worth more than $1 million with the Butler County Educational Service Center. The total contract is is approximately $140,000 higher than last year’s contract partly because it includes the salary of a new, shared business manager with Monroe. However, it will amount to a savings in the long run, according to Middletown superintendent Greg Rasmussen. Read more...

  • USV to pay former superintendent $39,000 (Lima News)
  • MCGUFFEY — The Upper Scioto Valley school board has come to an agreement with former Superintendent Rick Rolston, who the board fired in January. The board will pay Rolston $39,000. It is his per diem rate from Jan. 5, when the board voted to begin proceedings to terminate him, to April 25, when the board hired Dennis Recker to assume the position. Rolston, who came to the district in late 2008, demanded a hearing on the termination. A referee appointed by the state department of education recommended that Rolston’s contract not be terminated. Read more...

  • OAPSE union files grievance against Dawson-Bryant district (Ironton Tribune)
  • COAL GROVE — This year’s free summer lunch program was not a success for the Dawson-Bryant Local School District and the local Ohio Association of Local School Employees (OAPSE) union has filed a complaint with the district claiming the program displaced its workers, Superintendent Dennis DeCamp said at Monday’s board of education meeting. In past summers, DeCamp said, the school district offered summer meals to students in need, but the turnout was so low, thousands of dollars was lost on the project. Read more...

Mirroring Microsofts failing system

Vanity Fair has a preview of an about to be published expose on the failings of Microsoft, the software company that now corporate education reformer Bill Gates founded

Analyzing one of American corporate history’s greatest mysteries—the lost decade of Microsoft—two-time George Polk Award winner (and V.F.’s newest contributing editor) Kurt Eichenwald traces the “astonishingly foolish management decisions” at the company that “could serve as a business-school case study on the pitfalls of success.” Relying on dozens of interviews and internal corporate records—including e-mails between executives at the company’s highest ranks—Eichenwald offers an unprecedented view of life inside Microsoft during the reign of its current chief executive, Steve Ballmer, in the August issue. Today, a single Apple product—the iPhone—generates more revenue than all of Microsoft’s wares combined.

It's revealed that one of the primary causes of the decline, is related to the evaluation system they implemented, a system which in many aspects is mirrors the direction corporate education reformers are trying (and succeeding!) in taking teacher evaluations

Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

Teachers will also be under similar pressure to compete against peers, rather than trust their natural instincts and best practices to collaborate.

Education News for 06-19-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • New approaches urged to get boys to read (Dispatch)
  • Tyler Teague is the kind of reader educators say is the toughest to reach. The 11-year-old would pick up a book if required by his teacher, but it’s not something he’d do for fun. “It felt like a chore and that you had to do it,” said Tyler, who will attend Hilliard Tharp Sixth Grade School this fall. Educators have long struggled to motivate boys to read on their own. Boys tend to be more active, hands-on learners and would rather clean their rooms than read Little Women, educators say. Read more...

Local Issues

  • Fostoria school board OKs insurance contract (Courier)
  • FOSTORIA - Fostoria school board on Monday approved a contract of about $58,000 with Ohio School Plan, Toledo, for the district's property, fleet, liability and violence insurance for 2013-2015. Separately, the board approved a $50,195 bid from Roppe Corp., Fostoria, and a $45,500 bid from Lakeside Interior, Perrysburg, to replace the carpeted area on the first floor academic wing at the junior/senior high school. Read more...

  • Belmont Co. school districts get grant to explore sharing some services (WTOV 9 NBC)
  • BELMONT COUNTY — As school districts continue to face challenges of budget cuts while trying to maintain programs and state mandates, two Belmont County districts have been awarded a grant allowing them to explore sharing administrative services. The Barnesville and Union Local school districts have been awarded a $100,000 grant that will allow educators to explore sharing administrative services through Project Share. Read more...

  • Greenon district to keep salary freeze (News-Sun)
  • ENON — Greenon school board members plan to vote Thursday to freeze pay for district administrators and central office employees, a continuation of a two-year wage freeze for all district employees that has saved an estimated $460,000 to date. “It’s not a new crisis or a new issue,” said Treasurer Ryan Jenkins. “It’s just us following through with everything we said we would do.” In the spring of 2011, the district’s two labor unions — the Greenon Federation of Teachers, representing certified staff, and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, representing classified staff. Read more...

  • Residents clear about education needs (Vindicator)
  • Youngstown - Residents of the city are clear about what needs to happen to improve the schools. The next step is devising a plan to get there. More than 115 people attended an education town-hall meeting Monday at Stambaugh Auditorium where the representatives of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation of Bethesda, Md., discussed the findings of a community-engagement effort launched last February. Read more...

  • Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon likely to head district until 2015 (Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND - First-year Cleveland schools chief Eric Gordon will likely be back for three more. Today, after a year board President Denise Link and Mayor Frank Jackson consider successful, the school board will consider extending Gordon's contract as chief executive officer through June 2015. Gordon has worked closely with Jackson for the last four months, promoting to residents and legislators a school overhaul plan that lawmakers in Columbus approved last week. He will soon have to shift gears to recommend a tax increase for the board to put before voters in November. Read more...

  • Ten lose jobs as Zane Trace board OKs $500K in budget cuts (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • KINGSTON - Ten Zane Trace employees -- eight of them bus drivers -- lost their jobs Monday after the board of education approved a reduction in force. With a projected $1.28 million deficit looming in 2014, the board moved forward on a series of cuts expected to save the district more than $500,000 annually. Also losing their jobs Monday were a middle school intervention specialist and a custodian. In addition, the board will leave vacant two teaching positions and a custodial position. Read more...


  • All layered up (Beacon Journal)
  • The hope of the Kasich administration, which last week released a report on local governments sharing services, is to encourage greater collaboration at the grass roots. To do so holds much potential for reducing expenses and improving services, quite a feat at a time of sharply curtailed state support for cities, counties and schools. “Beyond Boundaries: A Shared Services Action Plan for Ohio Schools and Governments” plows some familiar ground, previous reports establishing the burden created by the state’s overlapping units of government. Read more...

  • Controversy over busing in Austintown was avoidable (Vindicator)
  • There is no denying that public education in Ohio is confronting major financial challenges. Significant reductions in state funding, along with the expansion of charter schools and voucher programs, are forcing districts to reduce spending — without affecting academics. The growing number of systems in state-designated fiscal watch and fiscal emergency illustrates the scope of the problem. Tensions are high, which means that lines of communication among school boards, administrators and the public, especially parents, must be open at all times. Read more...

  • Ohio's third-grade reading standard is improved by revision (Plain Dealer)
  • Education in Ohio got a boost last week, when Gov. John Kasich and Republican lawmakers brokered sensible agreements to help struggling third-graders and impose more accountability on charter schools that cater to teenagers at risk of dropping out. The compromises are in an education reform measure, Senate Bill 316, now awaiting Kasich's signature. Kasich had wanted to hold back every third-grader who scored below proficient on reading. That would have forced an estimated 17,000 students to repeat the grade -- more than teachers could handle or parents would tolerate. Read more...

Kids ride filthy, broken privatized buses

One of the provisions contained in the state budget (HB153) that has gone mostly unremarked was the privatization of some education support services, such as transportation

Privatization of School District Transportation Services

Permits non-Civil Service school districts (local, exempted and some city) to terminate transportation employees for reasons of economy and efficiency and contract with an independent agent if various conditions are satisfied, including that any CBA covering employees to be terminated has expired or will expire within 60 days. The independent agent is required to consider hiring terminated employees for similar positions. In addition, the independent agent is required to recognize any employee organization, for the purposes of collective bargaining, that represented employees at the time of termination.

It's supposed to save money, mostly by firing bus drivers and then re-hiring them at lower wages and with poorer benefits.

But that isn't the only corner cutting private school busing companies appear to want to engage in.

The Columbus school district’s private bus contractor, First Student Inc., was forced to park six of its buses last week after surprise inspections found loose seats, holes in the floor and other safety issues.

The State Highway Patrol, which inspects school buses, found unsafe conditions on eight of the nine buses it checked on Jan. 18 and 19. All eight were declared unfit to drive, although two of them were repaired right away and cleared for use.

The inspection of the busses happened quite by accident, due to one bus running a red light, but when the inspectors looked at all the buses what they found was quite shocking

Inspectors noted that some of the nine buses they checked didn’t have working windshield wipers. Others had inoperative taillights, brake lights, horns and warning buzzers. Rust had eaten away at the back of one bus, leaving sharp edges and a hole where air could flow in.

Several buses were dinged for being “filthy,” with trash strewn throughout the bus and on the floor, a hazard for students as they walk the aisles.

The rest of the article details other problems with this private bus company, including it being on probation 2 previous years. This is just another dimension to the privatization of public education tax dollars under the banner of corporate education reform. $14.2 million a year for kids to ride in filthy, broken buses.

Public Employees saved $1billion for tax payers

A new report has looked at collective bargaining compromises in Ohio and found that public employees have saved their employers and taxpayers a substantial amount of money (over $1 billion).

Among the findings:

  • Public union workers have saved taxpayers $1,059,881,500 billion through collective bargaining concessions since 2008.
  • Teachers and support staff accepted wage freezes in more than 90 percent of collective bargaining agreements this year – concessions not tallied in this report because they are not yet available.
  • Last year, at least 65 percent of public employee contracts included at least 1 year of wage freezes, some furlough days, reduced compensation, rollovers or economic re-openers.
  • Some of the lowest-paid public employees – non-teaching personnel such as custodians – have gone up to eight years without a pay increase in exchange for stable health care costs.
  • A Warren police officer blames cuts in safety forces for the injuries he sustained while rescuing people from a burning building in which one person died.
  • More than two-thirds of all teachers’ contracts increased employee insurance premium contributions or significantly changed their health plans, with the savings often used to improve educational opportunities for students.
  • More than 93 percent of public workers already pay for their own pension contribution, with no pick-up from their employers.
  • On average, county and state employees pay more than 15 percent for their health care plans.

Public Employees Shared Sacrifice Report