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Archive for May, 2012

Education is not the filling of a pail

May 30, 2012 Comments off

… but the lighting of a fire.

Newark NJ to buy out teacher contracts with Zuckerberg money

May 20, 2012 4 comments

This is for all you Facebook-loving teachers.

In 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to the Newark NJ school district. Now in 2012, we find out:

Newark could follow in the footsteps of New York City, Houston and other cities, to offer buyouts to teachers, to save money, that will help plug monetary shortfalls that they face.

Newark intends to pay off the teachers, willing to leave, with the money that they get from the Foundation started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Does Newark have an oversupply of teachers? This doesn’t smell good.

Why would they be doing this?

Newark has 84 teachers, who do not have permanent teaching positions and serve as substitutes or teachers aides. To [Superintendent]Ms Anderson, the $8.5 million spent on them is an avoidable expense. Moreover, their number is likely to increase next year when the city closes and consolidates schools as part of reorganization.

I don’t really get this part. If they do not have permanent positions then what’s the problem? Anwyay, will Newark not need subsitutes or aides next year?

New Jersey is also trying to pass a law to make teachers accountable for student performance, supported by Newark Mayor Cory Booker:

Anderson attempts to pare the payrolls, coincides with lawmakers attempts in Trenton to negotiate a bill that will assess teachers on how well their students have performed. This will weaken tenure protections and underperforming teachers could be relieved of their jobs, before their tenure is over. The bill has the support of Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Why is it always about firing teachers? Booker:

At a meeting of education writers in Philadelphia on Friday, he [Booker] said, “Superintendent Anderson has two hands tied behind her back. If we could fire the 300 to 400 lowest-performing teachers, she wouldn’t have a financial crisis.”

So now it’s 300 to 400 teachers?

Mayor Booker – if they aren’t meeting the terms of their contract, there should be no problem firing them. Just follow the due process. Is that so scary? After all, your team signed the contract.

Now we can laugh

May 18, 2012 2 comments

Over on Transparent Christina, John posted the above cartoon. I commented:

Parents are a lot smarter now, at least some of them are. Nowadays we also ask a lot more questions of our priests, our doctors, and our auto mechanics, so there’s no reason our teachers should get a pass. And those same engaged parents challenging the teachers are also the first ones to sign their kids up for extra help when they need it.

It’s funny how the schools say they want parent involvement, but only on their terms. When the parent involvement doesn’t go their way, suddenly it’s a problem.

I actually have a relevant anecdote. Just this week, a teacher gave three in-class assignments all in the same day. He graded my son 100%, 100%, and 0%. With the point weightings this ended up to be an overall grade of 50%.

Fortunately the teacher was diligent enough to enter all the grades into HAC immediately. I knew these were easy assignments for my son, so when I saw the zero I thought WTF? I emailed the teacher asking basically, “Explain these bad grades!”

It turns out it was a simple data entry error. The raw score for the assignment marked 0% was actually 20 out of 20, which had somehow gotten entered as 0. The teacher acknowledged the error and immediately fixed it, and thanked me for pointing it out. Nobody was angry like the cartoon.

I totally accept that it was human error and perfectly understandable, and I have no problem with that teacher (who is a great teacher, by the way).

But how often does this happen? What happens to the kids whose parents don’t review HAC and pounce on unusual grades? What happens to kids whose parents don’t challenge the teachers? Had I not caught it, it would have stood unchallenged.

By the way, that one mistake would have dropped his marking period average by an entire letter grade. That’s enough to keep a passing student from passing, or a good student off the honor roll.

And the worksheet would have come back marked 20/20, so nobody would have suspected a thing out of place. Had the teacher put off entering the grades like so many do, I would never have known about it until the report card had been issued, one letter grade lower than he deserved.

Why does the system let teachers enter zeroes so cavalierly? Giving a zero is extremely serious business. It’s not something that should be able to be done with the flick of a finger, with no checks, no explanation, and no follow-up.

Why would a teacher even be able to enter a zero for a good student, or any student for that matter, without something setting off an alarm, if not in the system then in his head? I can easily attribute it to time pressure and too many students, but still.

I say the system shouldn’t even allow teachers to enter a numeric “0.” Instead, it should prompt them to choose a code that explains what happened with the assignment. It would of course then be averaged as a zero, but at least we would have that additional information about why the student got no credit.

But thanks to parent involvement and a responsive teacher, this story ended well, so now we can laugh at the cartoon.