District's poor choice Posted: 11/13/2011 07:32:37 PM PST In the Oct. 21 article, "San Bernardino City Unified School District hires administrator with troubled past," it was brought to the public's attention that an audacious administrator, Mr. Ochoa, was hired as SBCUSD's administrative director of curriculum/instruction and accountability and research-secondary education, to what seems to be, given the comments online, public outrage. The citizens of San Bernardino are beside themselves that a man who was accused of misappropriating funds and illegally changed grades was hired on as a highly paid SBCUSD employee, and who can blame them? He has since declined the position. At the time of Ochoa's hiring, SBCUSD had other options. Ochoa was indeed not the only qualified applicant; SBCUSD chose Ochoa over other applicants. I know this because I was one of the qualified applicants who has not committed any crimes, disobeyed procedures, or any other questionable actions. On Oct. 20, I was sent an official letter from SBCUSD stating, "Thank you for applying for the position of Administrative Director, Curriculum/Instruction and Accountability and Research-Secondary Education. We had many fine applicants. However, after a careful screening process, we regret to inform you that you were not one of the candidates selected for an interview." One must question this "careful screening process" that "missed" the recent deplorable actions of Ochoa. If SBCUSD wishes to improve its negative image, perhaps
it should revamp its "careful screening process" and hire applicants with clean records.
So I often hear that current ed reform, especially via vouchers and charters, is "killing public education". Perhaps. But that is not quite my point here, and yet maybe it is. I was reading and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/no-child-left-behind-waiv_n_1087134.html?ref=educationthought, this plus California's new TK http://www.examiner.com/family-in-los-angeles/california-to-add-new-elementary-school-grade, and the whole diversity thing, adding homosexuals and other monorities to curriculum, and thought to myself...where the heck will California get money for all these reforms? We are anticipating a $2 billion cut in education, and we're 43rd in per pupil spending and dropping. We supposedly need to hire 100,000 teachers in the next decade. Add the billion dollars for the NCLB waivers mentioned in Huffington Post and... numbers are spinning in my mind and I can't even fathom the cost. How will California afford all this? With unemployment in some areas still rivaling Detroit for number one, foreclosures rampant, poverty in some area at "ultra poverty" (approx. income $11,000 year for a family of four) at 40%, highest business taxes and quite high income/property/sales tax and... California is hell-bound for desctruction.
So why is California issuing expensive education mandates when it can't even afford what it has now? Might the rumor of public education "dying" be indeed kind of true?
If so, what happens next? Education is compulsory, a right, so our children will have to be educated somehow. A broke state cannot afford vouchers for every child, so that only covers some students. Charters can be corporate run but receive state funding, so if the state can't fund education, few children will be educated via charters, especially with the charter cap in place. Some students can be home-schooled, or attend independent study or an online school, but legally a parent must be present while the child is not attending a school house- a child can't be left home unattended all day, "going to school at home" while all legal guardians are at work.
I'm not sure what will happen in California, but it scares me. As I've said before, parents, educators, community members need to do everything to help educate students both in and out of the classroom, because the CDE (Ca. Dept of Education)will likely not be able to afford to educate our children properly.
So I am still working on my article regarding the numbers of applicants per teaching job to dispel the "teacher shortage crisis" myth.
I talked to a district today that said they have credentialed (that means BA + 1 or more additional years of schooling), experienced (i.e. they've taught 1+ years) teachers applying for jobs... no surprise... but wait! These teachers are applying for substitute and IA (Instructional Aide aka Teacher's Aide) positions.
The average IA works 3 hours per day 180 days a year, at $8-14 an hour. That means professionals are desperate enough for employment that they are competing- rather stiffly, too- for positions that pay $4,320 to $7,560 a year. Substitutes fare better on paper, making $90- $120 a day, but working 180 days a year with earnings of $16,200 - $21,600 is but a dream. I worked in three districts, taking any and all sub positions (even the less desired i.e. adult ed, alternative ed, expulsion, medically fragile...) and worked an average of 2 days a week. This was before the budget crisis. Now, any teacher that was RIFed gets "first dibs" as a sub in their former district. A non-tenured, 1st or 2nd year RIFed teacher gets first dibs at sub jobs for 24 months, tenrued RIFed teachers, 39 months. Therefore, the thousands of teachers RIFed in the past few years are working as substitutes so that unemployed new teachers, out of state teachers, and non-union (i.e. charter, private) teachers are unlikely to support themselves as a sub.
Once the educational climate improves, the type of teachers I just listed are still out of luck for any job but an IA. Why? All unionized schools in California- covering 96% of teachers- follow the same month rule for hiring. To elaborate, let's say there is an elementary position open at District X. 100 people apply. Out of those 100, two are former employees, Mrs. Y, a two-years-ago RIFed tenured teacher of Dist. X, and Mr. Z a recently RIFed first year teacher at Dist. X. Well, the job will likely go to Mrs. Y due to unionization, seniority, and collective bargaining which covers teachers after they leave a school. If for some reason she denies the job, Mr. Z gets it. If he declines, then it goes to the "public".
This creates a permanent underclass of teachers; all new, out of state, or non-union, haven't worked in a union school for 24-39 month teachers are forever at the bottom of the barrel for jobs. They are highly unlikely to ever obtain a career in a tough job market.
I was thinking about the debate of using test scores to evaluate teachers. If it is used like the test scores are currently, there is no value added equation and only proficient status "wins". This would mean a class of low performing students would mean the teacher would be fired even if if is a historically low group due to external factors. This is a bad idea. But let's say,same teacher same school over time her students and her classroom scores are dropping year after year compared to neighboring classrooms of statistically similar students. Not just one student skewing if but the majority. Shouldn't this teacher be let go? I know I am rather against the tests and validity thereof. Yes they are valid measures of what is learned but eeally just a subset of knowledge and skills necessary for life. So judging a teacher just on scores is but a piece of the puzzle. Get pocketbooks (via unions, textbook and testing companies) out of the deal and get a fuller picture of teachers. Utilize more "fuzzy" data, informative such as portfolios and grades scaled on a stakeholder created and approved rubric. As if we just use test scores, not only are we (validly) assessing just a knowledge/skill subset but setting things up for failure, the teachers will cheat to save their jobs and students will purposely fail if they decide they do not like the teacher even if because she/he told you' " no ipods in class today" - students will know a teacher's entire future is in their hands and that responsibility lies anywhere but on them.
why must all solutions be so black and white? I see it as gray and entirely plausible, possible, effective.