EETT, where art thou?

April29

Background: On Thursday, the California State Senate Budget Subcommittee #1 on Education held a hearing that discussed the EETT ARRA money the state has received, but not spent. This was not an “action” item, but simply held for informational purposes. It’s a pain to view the hearing because there is NO fast forward and the part about EETT is about 1 hour in, but the testimony was good.  The plan at this point is to abandon both the distribution of formula money and the competitive grant process that was carried out in Fall of 2009, and replace it with a competitive grant process for districts to create/improve Pre-K data and another program for High Schools to collect data related to college and work readiness by adding SAT and AP scores. Then all this data would be massed together into a statewide longitudinal data system. The required 25% of funds for teacher professional development would be used for training teachers on how to use this longitudinal to inform and adjust their instructional delivery to students.

I’ll write below why this is a really bad idea. Those of you who have already figured that out, emails or letters to your state legislators and State Senator Liz Ducheny Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, (916) 651-4040 senator.ducheny@sen.ca.gov who is pushing this policy. Make the following points in your appeal, and please also share how much you would get and how those funds are used in your district:

  • The funds are way overdue (ARRA/EETT was signed by the President in Feb. 2009!) Funding should have been distributed last November.
  • The funding criteria by the feds should be honored or we are in danger of losing the $72 million.
  • The funds were intended to be spent quickly in order to save jobs.(stated in the Fed. guidelines)
  • The LAO’s suggestions for directing the funding to P-20 is premature. (CDE testified to this).
  • Some districts have already spent their own funds and are intending to be reimbursed by the grants.
  • LEAs know better than bureaucrats how and where to target the funds and they had to prove that through their grant applications.
  • Finally…………RELEASE THE FUNDS TO THE SCHOOLS AND THEIR STUDENTS!

Hasn’t the legislature already done enough damage? These are federal “pass through funds”. The state contributes nothing to education technology.

[The text comes from Virginia Strom Martin, Legislative Advocate for LAUSD — Thank you Virginia!]

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Why this plan? This is truly a case of the tail wagging the dog. The state feels it is under enormous pressure to improve its position for federal grants, and said as much in the hearings, like RttT. The state was deficient in two areas in the first round, one of them centered on not having a good longitudinal data tracking system for students. They want to shore up CALPADs the statewide student data system to make it “P-20” compliant. EETT is seen as an easy source of funds for that.

There is one huge problem with that approach. Spending EETT funds on a data tracking system does not meet the primary goal of EETT, supporting and enhancing classroom instruction. The mis-match is evident in a couple of key places. It does it not meet the improving classroom instruction by having kids using technology (what are you going to do, have the kids do analysis on their class scores over their school “career”?). The part about providing information to help individual teachers improve instruction is another whopper.

Electronic longitudinal data on students is a nice piece of data for teachers to have, but it’s not critical information. Remember, I’m not talking about current grades and test scores, but being able to go back through their entire student history, and manipulate the data for analysis. Does a high school teacher *really* need to have every students’ Pre-K to current grade records in electronic form so they can analyze it? Yeah, it’s nice to see what history a kid has, but you can look in their paper CUM record for that. The advantage of an electronic data system is more for meta analysis of larger trends, and patterns. Frankly, it doesn’t tell you much about a given student, or class, that you can’t figure out intuitively after spending some time with them.  The scope of data required for this is not data to inform teachers, but more for research and policy purposes.

You can really see this mis-match in goals with another requirement of EETT, that 25% of funds be spent on teacher professional development. I want you to picture this, they will be starting a new round of RFPs for grants, grading them, sending results, and then giving out money. If they are really fast, it might get out by December. I’d bet on January of 2011 myself. That means they have only half a school year to get the projects up and running, and 7 months to spend 25% of $72M (that would be $18M) in teacher training.

First, most districts have already implemented new student information systems to be compliant with new CALPADs requirements. Those trainings were only 6 hours, not the multiple days required to spend this kind of money, because how much time can you spend showing folks how to generate a graph or report? The LAO and CDE talked about it in terms of having trainings that would center on how teachers could use the data from the system to improve instructional practices. The only thing is, there was no discussion about what those instructional practices would be. What will they be? They entire focus was on data and there was NO discussion of instructional practice or methods, or squat. The use of this data system under those conditions would be like getting a diagnosis, but being told by the doctor, “I’m not sure what treatment or medicine to use, but I’m sure there’s something at the pharmacy, why don’t you go there!” That would be malpractice in any other profession.

It was the worst of times…

March14

pinkslip3

Well, being unionized, it’ll be a lot more civilized than that, but a week that started with my school being subject to “reconstitution” ended with me getting one of these.  Keep a couple things in mind…

  1. Last week ended with a lot success and kudos from my peers and others at CUE. I was sharing what was going on in the lab with students, and getting great feedback.
  2. The seniority dates for pink slip notices  under discussion were in the 7 year range, and seemed far away.
  3. Our school thought our principal was likely to get replaced, but as a staff, we were getting more focused, and organized in our instruction.

Now, my school is gonna be tossed to the four winds, and although I’ll probably be recalled since I’m right at the cutoff date, it’s highly unlikely I will be in the lab, or at my current site. I don’t know what to say. Random moments of absurdity from this week…

  • The district, perhaps trying to be kind, responded to an inquiry about our site by teachers at another school, but saying that we had “won a state grant”. Well, only if we kick 50% of the staff out. Really, it doesn’t help with the humiliation factor!
  • My district is recruiting TFA interns to fill positions that really aren’t open, and the district is claiming that they will not be filling any of the positions now made vacant by lay offs.

And this brings us to the rest of my post. You see, the only problem with this is they’ve sent pink slips out to high school teachers in math and science (the very “hard to fill” positions they claim they need under-qualified TFA interns for). They have also sent pink slips to a number of special education teachers at elementary, who would likely be better candidates for training to work in high school special ed classes than someone with absolutely no experience teaching anyone let alone high school kids with special needs.

I will not go into a long discussion about this, but many graduates of our two local public university teacher training programs  would love to get jobs in my district. For a variety of reasons, the biggest having to do with the districts insistence on not opening classroom teaching positions when more students show up at the start of school than are planned for until a month after school starts, this hasn’t happened. Instead, these teachers leave the state to find a teaching job before my district even gets around to posting these openings.

Call me paranoid, but I’m seeing this as a really clumsy execution of a policy to undermine unionized teachers.  I can’t help but think that they are trying to reach back as far as they can in the seniority pool, to clear out space for these interns, even though it would violate state labor law. They want to replace contracted teachers with inexperienced interns. I hope I’m wrong, and this is just poorly executed due to the new superintendent’s lack of experience, especially in working with a unionized teaching staff.

But, it’s not just about me, and my fellow teachers. We need to understand why this is important for the kids. This is what they should be doing:

  1. Improve the pipeline from CSUS, and UC Davis math and science teaching programs. Make a decision after week one to open new classes, and have those in the pipeline ready to go. They will have the advantage of already working in these schools, and be trained to work with language learner populations. In my opinion, using TFAers with minimal training working with this population would be a violation of those students’ civil rights.
  2. Offer unfilled high school special education positions to teachers in surplus pool, if they willing to work on getting the proper credentialing.  They will at least have experience with special education populations, and a solid understanding of best practices. Once again, using TFAers for this when other more qualified candidates were available, would be a violation of those students’ rights.
  3. If you have teachers who are on emergency credentials in those positions now, they have one more year of experience than the TFA interns which makes them superior. Make sure they are in a decent alt cert program.(1) Most of the studies comparing TFAs effectiveness are comparing them to alt cert teachers and they usually come up about equal in the short run. Since TFA has such a high attrition rate (85% in four years), that’s not saying much. Also, if teachers on emergency credentials are not up to snuff, they are the one class of teacher than be removed with very little fanfare (2 weeks notice). You would then want to look back up at #1 for a higher quality replacement.

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(1) Many of the teachers that are out of certification in science are only out because they are credentialed for another area. In other words, they’ve taken all their teaching theory classes, how to teach language learner classes, and science class in one subject (say Earth Science), they just are teaching in another science subject (say Biology).  I’m more troubled by someone not having any training in teaching than a Geologist teaching Biology while he works on finishing up a couple classes in Biology while he’s teaching.
[Return to text]

We interrupt this program improvement…

March8

I am overdue for posts on my trip to CUE, the ongoing soap opera of EETT ARRA funding in my state, and posting about my upcoming presentation at CABE with Larry Ferlazzo, but today we received bad news at my school, so instead I’m indulging in a pity party. My school is being designated as a “failing school” in the bottom 5% of school performance. We’re still trying to figure out how the state chose us among some other schools in our district (some of whom have been in PI much longer, like 7 years to our 4), but it is what it is. The Superintendent stopped by with some other district administrators (since it’s a pretty new and arcane process, they were there to answer questions). They will not be turning us into a charter, or closing us. They will either do a fresh slate, letting all of us go, OR get a new administrator, and replace up to 50% of teaching staff.

Frankly, blogging, twittering, or otherwise communicating on the Internet about my personal experiences as this unfolds is not going to help the situation, so I’m not anticipating this being an ongoing topic. You’ll likely see me moan and groan on twitter occasionally about job hunting, if that comes up. I’m going to ask readers to put things in context:

  1. I still have job rights, and even if all of us are terminated from our positions, we still have jobs (except for our lower seniority teachers who were going to get pink-slipped/fired anyway due to budget cuts).
  2. I have changed job sites pretty frequently. I’ve never worked at the same site longer than three years. I’ve been pretty “mobile” in my job history. I like changing jobs.
  3. That being said, I hate job hunting, and will likely moan a lot on twitter if it comes to that. A little sympathy is all that is necessary. Just because I’m complaining, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world for me.
  4. The bottom line is that I’m more worried about whether this is the right thing for the students, than for the grown ups. I think the vast majority of adults at the school know things need to be improved, but right now it is much too new, and too personal for many of us to judge whether this is a good idea.

I just really need time to digest this whole thing myself. Thank you for your support!

Catching up on last week…

February5

Wednesday January 30, 2008 in a Sentence

Today was an inverse sh*t sandwich: my desktop o/s was fried last night when the server crashed, so I had to be reimaged; the school day went great; I got my cell phone lost/stolen at the end of the day.

Tuesday January 29, 2008 in a Sentence

The high today was 45 with rain; I feel like a human icicle.


The Nocturnal Shed

Monday January 28, 2007 in a Sentence

Okay, here is a lesson in how not to plan a lesson: Why was I having them do three seperate tasks in one day, with three brand new web apps? BREAK IT DOWN next time!

ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

October17

So, I sign up for a course through USD so I can get units towards this stupid supplemental authorization (it’s not stupid, it’s just giving me a headache to get, if you want a laugh, ask to see the email I’ve exchanged with the Commission on Teacher Credentialing where they give me advice that contradicts their handbook and would have resulted in my wasting time getting 10 extra semester units of work).

I sent a check by mail. I asked to be put in a class that started on 10/12 (I mailed this about two weeks ago), but I put a note saying, hey if the check clearing takes too long, put me in one of the next two sections starting. Well, this a.m. I get a note from USD saying I’m in the section that ALREADY STARTED! Yes, and there is a two-three page evaluation due (with APA citations) tomorrow at 12 noon my time. AYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.

So we go to Kaiser for an appointment for son, and basically, I’m typing this fool paper while I wait for the docs. That is the fastest (and sloppiest) paper I’ve ever done. I tried to contact the prof about the deadline, but he hasn’t gotten back to me yet, so I turned it in. I am NOT a happy camper now, and if I owe you something (like Matthew is supposed to have a post from me about Open Court unit openers) it’ll be there this weekend. Sorry.

BTW, thank you David Warlick for your citation generator.

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