New study - Charters cut costs to make money

Seems obvious that charter school teachers work longer hours and are less experienced. How else can charter school management companies make a profit?

Charter school teachers tend to have fewer years of experience, and work longer hours than their counterparts in public, non-charter schools, a new analysis suggests.

Yet by another measure—the hiring of teachers from "highly selective" colleges—both charters and traditional public schools lag well behind the private school norm.

Many of those findings are consistent with past research, notes the author of the paper, Marisa Cannata of Vanderbilt University, whose work is included as part of a newly published book, Exploring the School Choice Universe: Evidence and Recommendations. But the analysis provides fresh insights into who goes to work in public and private sector schools, and what kinds of conditions they encounter when they get there.

Some are even going to crazy lengths to maximize profits, as Stephen Dyer discovers

There is an amazing story out of Florida now posted here and here that delineates just how outrageously high K-12, Inc. schools' student-teacher ratios are. K-12, Inc. runs Ohio Virtual Academy, with educates about 10,000 Ohio students.

Just a few tidbits. The heads of schools are told that they should have the following ratios in the following grades:

K-8: 60-72:1
9-12: 225-275:1

That's right. K-12, Inc. thinks it's a good idea to have kindergartners in classes as high as 72:1 and high school kids in 275:1 classes.

We really don't need research anymore, just look at any of these companies 10k financial filings.

Education News for 04-06-2012

Local Issues

  • Cleveland Teachers Union and Mayor Frank Jackson to continue negotiations next week over schools plan (Plain Dealer)
  • They'll be back at it again next week. Mayor Frank Jackson and the Cleveland Teachers Union concluded more than six hours of negotiations Wednesday night over the disputed parts of Jackson's school plan without reaching a final agreement, deciding to take a break from the talks over Easter weekend. Read More…

  • Cleveland education reform plan discussed at community meeting (News Channel 5)
  • CLEVELAND - Mayor Frank Jackson and Cleveland Schools CEO Eric Gordon outlined the plan for transforming schools at a community meeting Thursday night. "We're focused on quality education," Jackson told about 60 residents who gathered at the Gunning Recreation Center. Read More…

  • Chardon High School student, employee called heroes for efforts during shooting in February (Plain Dealer)
  • In the frantic moments after shots rang out Feb. 27 at Chardon High School, cafeteria worker Cherie Reed held open a kitchen door, offering students a haven from chaos and evil. Travis Carver, a 16-year-old junior, heard the noises and thought they were someone popping paper bags. Then he noticed T.J. Lane. Read More…

  • Olentangy bomb ‘threat’ no joke, teen told (Dispatch)
  • Hours before he boarded a plane that took him and his family to Kuwait yesterday, a teenage boy admitted to a Delaware County Juvenile Court judge that he had joked about blowing up his school the day before. Mohamed Mahmoud, 15, pleaded guilty today to inducing panic at Olentangy High School, which was evacuated and searched by authorities in response to what officials thought was a bomb threat. Read More…

  • Parents asked to weigh in on Beavercreek redistricting plan (Dayton Daily News)
  • Beavercreek City Schools officials want to hear from local parents about plans that affect where their children will attend school in 2013-14.< District officials held a public forum Wednesday at Beavercreek High School to present three sets of initial redistricting maps, and put those maps online Thursday. Read More…

An Unfair Editorial

The Plain Dealer had a terribly slanted and unfair editorial titled "Cleveland school-reform bill needs teachers' input". From the title it sounded as though some were finally calling for collaboration, before a rush to legislation. Alas, that was not the case, as the editorial demonstrated, first with a straw man argument

When the usually reserved Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says he would trade his office for "quality education for our children," all of the other adults involved in the high-stakes discussion on school reform ought to determine what they would give up as well.

So far, judging from the Cleveland Teachers Union's tepid response to the mayor's Cleveland-only school reform package, the answer appears to be little or nothing.

One should hardly be confused by the empty rhetoric of a politician and then compare it to actual sacrifices working people ought to make on the basis on that rhetoric. So straight away we knew this editorial was headed south.

The mayor says that despite hours of meetings with union representatives, he has received no written reply to his wide-ranging draft legislation on school reform.

The draft legislation was only made available less than 24 hours ago as of the writing of this editorial! People have barely had chance to even read and digest it, let alone craft some policy response document in considered terms.

If the Mayor and the Plain Dealer truly wanted teacher input, why didn't they seek it during the crafting of the actual legislation, then they could have rolled it out with a lot more support and a lot less controversy. To now blame teachers, yet again, for his own failing to collaborate with critical stakeholders is very unfair.

School Principals Swamped by Teacher Evaluations

"School Principals Swamped by Teacher Evaluations", that's the title of an article on an ABC News report this past weekend.

Sharon McNary believes in having tough teacher evaluations.

But these days, the Memphis principal finds herself rushing to cram in what amounts to 20 times the number of observations previously required for veteran teachers – including those she knows are excellent – sometimes to the detriment of her other duties.

"I don't think there's a principal that would say they don't agree we don't need a more rigorous evaluation system," says Ms. McNary, who is president of the Tennessee Principals Association as well as principal at Richland Elementary. "But now it seems that we've gone to [the opposite] extreme."
"There is no evidence that any of this works," says Carol Burris, a Long Island principal who co-authored an open letter of concern with more than 1,200 other principals in the state. "Our worry is that over time these practices are going to hurt kids and destroy the positive culture of our schools."
In Tennessee, the biggest complaint from many principals is simply the amount of time required from them for the new observation system. Veteran teachers, who in the past only needed to be evaluated every five years, now get four observations a year. Untenured teachers need six.

Each observation involves a complicated rubric and scoring system, discussions with the teacher before and afterward, and a written report – a total of perhaps two to four hours for each one, Ms. McNary estimates.

This last observation is one JTF talked about in one of our most popular articles.

Let's just think for a minute about these observations.

There must be 2 per year per teacher of at least 30 minutes each. 30 minutes + 30 minutes = 1 hour. 1 hour x 146,000 teachers = 146,000 hours of observation per year.

But these observers aren't just going to magically appear. They will need time to organize the observations, to get to the classes, to record their findings and to issue a report. Conservatively this adds another hour per year per teacher to the effort.

Now we are at 292,000 hours per year just for this provision alone.

If someone were to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year it would take them over 140 years to complete this task. Since these observations have to be completed annually that means we're going to need at least 140 more administrators just for this provision alone!

This dawning realization is also hitting home in Ohio now too,

Nordonia Hills is one of dozens of school districts across the state that are piloting the new evaluation program -- which state education officials have been working on for the past several years.

Superintendent Joe Clark said the district has been involved in the state's move to revamp the teacher evaluation process since he came on board in 2009 as assistant superintendent. Charged with performing human resource and personnel management for the district, Clark said he felt the teacher evaluation system needed a drastic upgrade.

This year, pilot evaluations are being conducted on six teachers -- three each at Nordonia High School and Ledgeview Elementary.

Nordonia hills has 236 teachers according to the Department of Education. It's taken them 3 years to get to the point of observing 6 of them.

Clark said many aspects of the program remain to be worked out. He said "student growth," one factor in the process, has yet to be specified, for example.

That student growth measure is 50% of the mandated evaluation. You can begin to see when we say Teacher evaluations are years away from completion, we're not exaggerating.

The Nordonia Hills superintendent did his own math

Clark said the process requires an evaluator -- typically the building principal or assistant principal -- to observe teachers in class twice for at least 30 minutes each time. The process also involves meetings prior to, and after each observation session.

Likewise, the new process is much more time consuming. Clark said evaluating 80 teachers at Nordonia High School would require 480 meetings.

"And that's not counting the time to write up the evaluations," Clark said, adding "How is that possible? There's only 180 school days in the year."

Teacher observations are an important and valuable tool for professional development and evaluation. Few would argue that. The problem becomes one of time and resources. HB153 was passed without any consideration to the mammoth amount of work needed to implement these corporate education reforms. Indeed, HB153, rather than add resources, cuts almost $2 billion dollars from public education.

It's going to be very convenient indeed for corporate education reformers to look upon this impending failure and blame everyone but themselves for not getting results. Why, it might even let them engage in more teacher and union bashing, and argue that their reforms failed because the status quo stood in the way.

Harder to deal than to teach

After we published this story about the hypocrisy of Senate Chief Of Staff Matt Schuler getting an appoinment as the executive director of the Casino Control Commission, we got an email from a reader that we found so hard to believe we had to do some checking.

Our reader pointed out that it requires more training to become a prospective Ohio casino dealer than a Teacher for America teacher.

Right from the Teach for American website

All corps members must attend a five-week training institute in full before they begin teaching. Corps members must attend the institute to which their region is assigned.

A lot of teachers are rightly insulted that a 200 hour training course can now be substitued for years of higher education, professional development and training. It turns out casino's think you need more than 5 weeks just to deal Blackjack and Poker!

The Dispatch

The school hired seasoned dealers to teach blackjack, poker and craps. And it set up a school at the casino to teach the trainees, supported by funding from the state.

"We trained over 400 people to start up the operation, and now we're down to training about 40 people every six weeks," Hubbard said.

6 weeks! We thought we would check that claim out. The Blue Ridge Community and Technical College is a state-supported institution within the West Virginia Community and Technical College system and provides accredited training for prospective casino employees. Here's their curriculum

Introduction to Casino Games: This course covers the general responsibilities of the dealer and is a pre-requisite for other table games training courses. Emphasis is placed on correct chip handling techniques, identifying the value of each color chip, learning to read the total value of a bet, and pit procedures. 40 hours (4 hours per day, 5 days per week, 2 weeks) Cost: $200.00

Blackjack: This course covers the fundamentals of dealing Blackjack. Emphasis is placed on card totaling, chip handling and cutting, card shuffling and card placement. Attention is given to game and accounting procedures, accuracy, and speed. 80 hours (4 hours per day, 5 days per week, 4 weeks) Cost: $400.00

Roulette: This course covers the fundamentals of dealing Roulette. Emphasis is placed on chip handling, table layout, accurate and quick mental multiplication, and accuracy in clearing the table. 80 hours (4 hours per day, 5 days per week, 4 weeks) Cost: $400.00

Poker: This course covers the fundamentals of dealing Poker. Instruction is provided in the fundamentals of rake/antes/blind bets, game rules and regulations, dealer’s responsibilities and game security. 80 hours (4 hours per day, 5 days per week, 4 weeks) Cost: $400.00

Craps: This course covers the fundamentals of dealing craps. Emphasis is placed on the knowledge of the procedures on a variety of bets, accurate and quick mental multiplication and chip handling. Special attention is given to game procedures, accounting procedures, accuracy and speed. 160 hours (4 hours per day, 5 days per week, 8 weeks) Cost: $700.00

Midi Baccarat: This course is designed to train students in all aspects of dealing Midi Baccarat. Students will learn about the equipment used, the rules and object of the game, check handling and odds. Extensive hands on training is used to assist students in mastering all aspects of this exciting game. 80 hours (4 hours per day, 5 days per week, 4 weeks) Cost: $400.00

To take all these casino card game training courses would consume 13 weeks, 6 times longer than TFA thinks it takes to train a classroom ready teacher. If the course were offered for 8 hours a day it would still take 6.5 weeks to complete, and week and a half longer than the TFA training

There's something deeply wrong when we think it takes longer to traing card dealers than teachers.

Big changes come to Wisconsin

As the new school year begins, teachers in Wisconsin are just now finding out what work life will be like without a contract.

With the start of school approaching on Sept. 1, about two-thirds of Wisconsin's school districts are rushing to finalize employee handbooks to replace now-extinct collective bargaining agreements that for decades outlined duties and salaries for workers.

The passage of the state's new "Act 10" legislation - in effect for all districts that didn't extend a contract with teachers before the passage of the law - gives administrators the ability to make sweeping changes to teachers' pay scales, hours and working conditions without having to negotiate them with unions.

Some sacred cows are disappearing, such as teacher tenure, layoffs based on seniority and the guarantee of 10 years' worth of post-retirement health insurance. Other big and complex changes on the horizon include new salary structures and pay-for-performance plans.

Many teachers, especially those still feeling bruised from divisive union fights and the requirement to pay more for their health insurance and retirement, are concerned about the changes being made unilaterally by management, said Christina Brey, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers union.

Some of the major changes will include

  • Changing health insurance options and reducing post-retirement benefits
  • Ending tenure and layoff decisions based on seniority, now teachers can be on year-to-year contracts, and nonrenewal decisions can be based on performance.
  • Modifying work expectations. Teacher contracts traditionally specify a variety of work-related conditions, from the maximum number of contact hours with students, to the number of prep periods, to the length and number of work days.

The other intended consequence was to reduce the teachers association to a shell, as they announce a 40% reduction in staff

The law strips teachers and most other public employees of rights to collectively bargain over issues like work conditions or vacation time. The extent of their collective bargaining rights are now limited to wages, and workers cannot argue for a salary increase larger than the rate of inflation. It also no longer permits unions to automatically withdraw dues from paychecks.

Similar effects will be felt in Ohio if SB5 survives the November election. It's not hyperbole to suggest that the teaching profession is on the line. And without strong advocates for public education, that too will come under great and greater duress.