Survey shows disturbing patterns

The latest Metlife survey, conducted annually since 1984, shows educators under incredible stress as they cope with large budget cuts coupled with increased demands.

The whole survey is worth a read, but we've pulled out some of the most important findings.

Principals and Teachers Give Positive Ratings to the Job Teachers Are Doing

Nearly all principals (98%) give positive ratings to the classroom teachers in their school. This level is similar to the ratings provided by principals in 1986 (95%). The majority of principals (63%) say that their teachers are doing an excellent job and an additional 35% describe the job teachers are doing as pretty good.

In contrast to teachers’ ratings of their principals, the most experienced principals are most likely to rate their teachers highly. Principals with more than 10 years’ experience as a principal are more likely than those with six to 10 years’ experience or those with five years’ or less experience to rate the classroom teachers in their school as excellent (72% vs. 56% vs. 59%).

Of course corporate education reformers will continue to claim too many teachers are not performing in the classroom, despite all the available evidence.

As a consequence of the relentless teacher bashing, and budget cuts, politicians are causing serious moral problems with the workforce, as is evidenced in the next two findings

Teacher Job Satisfaction Continues to Decline

Teacher satisfaction has declined to its lowest point in 25 years and has dropped five percentage points in the past year alone, from 44% to 39% very satisfied. This marks a continuation of a substantial decline noted in the 2011 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher; teacher satisfaction has now dropped 23 percentage points since 2008.

Stress among teachers has increased since 1985

In 1985—the last time this question was asked and when job satisfaction was also low—more than one-third (36%) of teachers said they felt under great stress at least several days a week. Today, that number has increased; half (51%) of teachers feel under great stress at least several days a week. Elementary school teachers experience stress more frequently.

They are more likely than middle school or high school teachers to say they feel under great stress at least several days a week (59% vs. 44% vs. 42%). The increase since 1985 in the number of elementary school teachers who experience great stress at least several days a week is also noteworthy—59% today compared to 35% in 1985

Corporate reformers are also having negative impacts on Principals too

Most principals say that their responsibilities today have changed compared to five years ago and that the job has increased in complexity

Moreover, three-quarters (75%) of principals agree that the job of the principal has become too complex, a view shared by principals regardless of demographic characteristics such as school level, school location, the proportion of low-income or minority students, or the proportion of students performing at or above grade level in English language arts and math.

Half (48%) of principals feel under great stress several days a week or more. This finding is perhaps not surprising given the previously cited results that most principals feel their jobs are too complex, their responsibilities have changed during the past five years, and that they have a high degree of accountability with varying levels of control over decisions

The ever increasing Rube Goldberg machines being constructed by corporate education reformers is making the job of principal all but impossible. The survey notes

It is important to note that as educators begin to implement new, higher standards, many face other competing mandates related to teacher and student assessment as well as decreasing teacher morale,and reductions in budgets and other resources such as staff, professional learning opportunities, and time for collaboration.

When asked about limited resources and what would help them most in addressing the needs of diverse learners, majorities of teachers consistently say other teachers. In 2009, nine in 10 teachers agreed that other teachers contribute to their success in the classroom, including 51% who strongly agreed. Most teachers and principals also said that greater collaboration among teachers and school leaders would have a major impact on improving student achievement.

Given limited resources, teachers believed opportunities for collaborative teaching would have a major impact on their ability to address different learning needs of individual students.

Yet most teachers continued to report that their time to work with other teachers remained the same or had been reduced.

On top of these strains being faced by teachers, the strains being felt by principals is leading to teachers taking on additional leadership roles

As the job of the principal has become more complex with the need to balance instructional leadership, high-stakes accountability, and non-academic management, the survey has documented the emergence of teachers more prominently as leaders in their schools, districts and beyond. The voice of the teacher as an educator has also become a voice of leadership in education.
Teachers Are School Leaders; Many Have a Formal Leadership Role in Their School Half (51%) of teachers currently have a formal leadership role in their school, such as department chair, instructional resource, teacher mentor, or leadership team member. Teachers who have a formal leadership role are more experienced; they are more likely than other teachers to have at least six years of teaching experience (86% vs. 73%). These teacher leaders are also more likely to report that their school’s budget has decreased during the past 12 months (60% vs. 51%), perhaps reflecting a greater need among these schools to have teachers take on more responsibilities.
In the context of additional challenges for leading schools toward greater improvement, the continuing decline in teacher morale identifies itself as an urgent priority. During a time when expectations and standards are increasing for effective teaching and learning, teacher morale is yet another declining resource, one that is associated with schools with diminished budgets and other resources, fewer students meeting standards and fewer colleagues highly rated for how well they are doing their job. Teacher leadership emerges as a potential resource for translating big challenges into opportunities, served by hybrid roles for teachers as leaders and as a method for addressing professional growth and satisfaction.

It's time that politicians began to properly value and respect their most valuable asset the education system has - the educators who work in it.

The Terhar debacle roundup

Fallout from State Board of Education President's offensive and ignorant Facebook post, comparing President Obama to Hilter spread far and wide yesterday.

The latest development has a tepid statement from the Governor's spokesperson saying "the governor has no comment about Terhar’s posting and no plan to remove her as board president". A true profile in courage and leadership.

The Ohio Department of education had its head resign over a serious ethics violation, and the current acting superintendent and his deputy are reportedly applying for district level jobs. Education leadership in Ohio is in disarray. Now the governor expects education professionals to take the State Board of Education President seriously after this disgraceful incident? Certainly her fellow board members don't think so

“I don’t think she can be perceived as being objective,” said Jeffrey Mims, a board member from Dayton. “Whether she wrote the statement or not, the fact that she harbored those statements on her Facebook page, I think you just can’t be associated with that.”

Ann Jacobs, a board member from Lima, said the board is supposed to be nonpartisan but Terhar’s posting is the latest sign of how partisan it’s gotten in recent years.

Here's a sampling of some of the coverage

Her continued presence on the board brings disgrace to the State Board of Education, Ohio's education system and all the professionals who strive everyday to bring excellence to educating Ohio's young people.

Kasich failed leadership test

Leadership isn't deciding if everyone should have cake or ice-cream for dessert, it's making the right decision when the decision is tough, and especially when it needs to be made quickly. John Kasich failed that test.

When the scandal surrounding Stan Heffner, who the Inspector general accused of theft in office, pay to play and perjury, broke, the Governor failed to act.

Heffner had been under fire by some critics to resign, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich wasn't one of them. A spokesman for Gov. Kasich said Heffner should not lose his job. "He is doing a very good job as superintendent, but using official resources the way he did and demonstrating that kind of bad judgment is unacceptable," Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said in an email to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Certainly some action is warranted, but right now it's the governor's own opinion that dismissal seems too far."

The pressure from every other quarter however mounted, culminating in Stan Heffner resigning, Saturday 4th, August. Here's the Governor's response to this news

Kasich referred to the resignation as a "retirement" in a statement on Saturday, and called the decision "the right one." He said Heffner's "mistakes in judgment were unfortunate, but I respect him for always putting Ohio's students above everything else, including his own interests."

The Governor in just a matter of days, switches his position. On the 2nd August, removing Stan Heffner was "too far", just 2 days later it was "the right one".

Failures of leadership don't get easier to see than this.

Education News for 05-08-2012

Statewide Education News

  • Kasich school plan may change (Dispatch)
  • Republican leaders in the Senate plan to slow down Gov. John Kasich’s initiatives for holding back third-graders who aren’t proficient in reading and for a tougher report-card rating system for schools and districts. Under the Senate plan, new report cards would be issued by Sept. 1, 2013, for the 2012-13 school year, not this summer for the current school year. And the so-called reading guarantee would start in the 2013-14 school year, instead of this fall. Read More…

Local Issues

  • School bus drivers test skills on safety course (WLIO-Lima)
  • They drive our kids to school every day. Rarely do parents second guess the skills of school bus drivers. For the drivers, the safety of the children is of the up-most importance. To help improve their safe driving skills, bus drivers took to the course as part of the regional school bus safety Road-E-O Saturday. Driving a car through an obstacle course of cones may be difficult for some people, but imagine doing it in a 30 to 40 foot school bus. That is exactly what area bus drivers did Saturday morning, helping to sharpen their driving skills. Read More…

  • Animals on loose not considered ‘calamity’ for closed schools (Dispatch)
  • Unsure whether lions, tigers and bears remained loose near Zanesville, three Muskingum County school districts canceled classes the day after Terry Thompson released his menagerie of exotic pets and shot himself in the head. A calamity? Read More…

  • Effort Underway To Repeal Westerville School Levy (NBC-4, Columbus)
  • The levy controversy in Westerville just won't go away. Even though voters approved a 6.71-mill emergency operating levy in March, voters may soon see a levy issue on their November ballot as well. However, the new issue would be to repeal the levy. Monday, the group Taxpayers for Westerville Schools began collecting signatures in an effort to repeal the levy. Read More…

  • Official: Public can fight school privatization (Vindicator)
  • To stop privatization of public education, citizens need to become active. “Go to hearings, send 10 million emails to the governor and the legislators,” William L. Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, told about 200 people at Boardman High School Monday. Phillis was a speaker at a public forum sponsored by township schools and the Mahoning County Educational Service Center, Read More…

  • Salem bus drivers treated to breakfast on their ‘day’ (Salem News)
  • SALEM - City school bus drivers received a pat on the back Monday as part of School Bus Driver Appreciation Day in Ohio. "They do an awesome job of keeping our kids safe," Salem City Schools Transportation Supervisor Tom Mather said about his drivers. As for the kids, he said "they're safer in a school bus than any other form of transportation." Read More…

  • Eastmoor neighbors concerned about Africentric relocation plan (Dispatch)
  • Residents of the northern end of Eastmoor say they have a lot of questions about Columbus City Schools’ plans to move Columbus Africentric Early College to a former apartment complex near them. In the meantime, Bexley-area officials remain interested in using the old Woodland Meadows property even after the campus is built. They met with Columbus school-district officials yesterday, Columbus schools spokesman Jeff Warner said. Read More…

  • State dept. of education recognizes local teacher (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • A Ross County educator recently was recognized by the Ohio Department of Education for her local leadership as an advocate for families and young children. Maryjo Flamm-Miller, program specialist for Ross County Job & Family Services, received the 2012 Irene Bandy-Heddon Community Leadership Award from ODE's Office of Early Learning and School Readiness. The Community Leadership award was one of several awarded during a conference April 21 in Columbus. Read More…

Politics and Education Don't Mix

Governors and presidents are no better suited to run schools than they are to run construction sites, and it's time our education system reflected that fact.

A central flaw of corporate paradigms, as is often noted in popular culture, is the mind-numbing and dehumanizing effect of bureaucracy. Sometimes we are horrified and sometimes we laugh, but arguments for or against the free market may be misguided if we fail to address bureaucracy's corrosive role in the business model.

Current claims about private, public, or charter schools in the education reform movement, which has its roots in the mid-nineteenth century, may also be masking a much more important call to confront and even dismantle the bureaucracy that currently cripples universal public education in the U.S. "Successful teaching and good school cultures don't have a formula," argued legal reformer Philip K. Howard earlier in this series, "but they have a necessary condition: teachers and principals must feel free to act on their best instincts....This is why we must bulldoze school bureaucracy."

Bureaucracy, however, remains an abstraction and serves as little more than a convenient and popular target for ridicule -- unless we unpack what actions within bureaucracy are the sources for many of the persistent failures we associate erroneously with public education as an institution. Bureaucracy fails, in part, because it honors leadership as a primary quality over expertise, commits to ideological solutions without identifying and clarifying problems first, and repeats the same reforms over and over while expecting different results: our standards/testing model is more than a century old.

Public education is by necessity an extension of our political system, resulting in schools being reduced to vehicles for implementing political mandates. For example, during the past thirty years, education has become federalized through dynamics both indirect ("A Nation at Risk" spurring state-based accountability systems) and direct (No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top).

As government policy and practice, bureaucracy is unavoidable, of course. But the central flaw in the need for structure and hierarchy is that politics prefers leadership characteristics above expertise. No politician can possibly have the expertise and experience needed in all the many areas a leader must address (notably in roles such as governor and president). But during the "accountability era" in education of the past three decades, the direct role of governors and presidents as related to education has increased dramatically--often with education as a central plank in their campaigns.

One distinct flaw in that development has been a trickle-down effect reaching from presidents and governors to state superintendents of education and school board chairs and members: people who have no or very little experience or expertise as educators or scholars attain leadership positions responsible for forming and implementing education policy.

The faces and voices currently leading the education reform movement in the U.S. are appointees and self-proclaimed reformers who, while often well-meaning, lack significant expertise or experience in education: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, billionaire Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee (whose entrance to education includes the alternative route of Teach for America and only a few years in the classroom), and Sal Khan, for example.

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Collaborations Between Union and District Leadership in Four School Systems

The Center for American Progress just published a report titled "Partnering for Compensation Reform - Collaborations between Union and District Leadership in Four School Systems". Whether you support merit pay for teaching or believe it is an effective way to compensate teachers and improve student outcomes, one thing is increasingly clear. Collaboration is essential. This is why SB5 and the SB5 provisions that were included in the state budget were such terrible ideas, doomed to failure.

Here's a brief snippet from the report. Please note that CAP is funded in part by the Eli Broad Foundation, a Corporate education reform booster, but here at JTF we like to bring a depth and breadth of research for you to consider. One of the school systems studied was Toledo.

Through our four case studies of these TIF grantees, the author has identified six common elements at work in these performance-pay partnerships between districts and unions:
  • There is a history of trust—the belief that the other party genuinely wants what is best for you—between teachers’ unions and school district leaders.
  • Leaders identify key challenges together and focus on joint problem solving and learning.
  • Teacher input is encouraged and valued in the design of pay programs.
  • Pay programs embrace a comprehensive approach focused on building teacher capacity, including a focus on new professional development systems and teacher evaluation systems.
  • Teacher participation in pay programs is voluntary.
  • Districts allow for flexibility in program design.

Some critics have raised questions about whether performance pay in particular has an impact on student achievement. A study released in the fall of 2010 by researchers at Vanderbilt University raised questions about the effectiveness of one performance-pay program involving 300 middle-school math teachers in Nashville, TN, suggesting it had little impact on student performance. Notably, however, the Vanderbilt program was narrow in scope, limited largely to a bonus tied solely to test scores, and lacking additional program components or supports for teachers. Unlike the programs we studied, however, the Nashville program did not take a comprehensive approach that tied performance pay to improvements in professional development or to changes in how teachers are evaluated.

More comprehensive and collaborative approaches, such as the partnerships we examined in the four districts receiving TIF funds, are more likely to be successful. There is little reason to expect that a simple bonus by itself can have a profound impact if it is not paired with substantive changes in professional development, teacher evaluation, teacher working conditions, and a significant role for teacher leadership and input in schoolwide reform efforts, among other elements. Many of these more comprehensive approaches are just beginning to be put into practice, so little evidence exists yet of their relative effectiveness on student achievement. More research in this area will be helpful in determining the impact of these reforms over the long term.

Partnering for Compensation Reform