Monday, May 31, 2010

Charter Schools and Districts (Merc News Article)

Since many folks may be away this weekend, I'm providing a link to an article from the Mercury News. It talks about the inherent issue in the State law that created charter schools- that it does, in some ways, pit charter schools against districts. If someone were to want to spend a lot of time on the legislative side, it might be a worthwhile endeavor to try to fix this problem.

As a note: the article is pretty even-handed. It acknowledges the differences between charters and traditional school districts. It's also interesting to see the issues that some other districts have with their charter schools. Some of the issues are similar, and some are directly tied to the fact that some charter schools are chartered by the county instead of the local districts. All very interesting...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pay for Performance

There's an interesting article on that details a new proposed "Pay for Performance" program. The actual details of the program are here.

I've long been interested in being able to reward teachers who truly inspire students, and make big contributions to our student population and our district's professional community. We have some teachers in our midst who have been spectacular. I personally know of a Math teacher who moves children from being afraid of math to looking forward to it each day, and competing in "Math Olympiads". We have teacher who stretches their fourth graders and introduces them to Shakespeare. We have teachers who, despite all the other schedule demands, find time to mentor new colleagues and create another generation of outstanding educators.

The proposed federal program provides up to $437m to fund "merit pay". It lays out that Teachers should continue to be paid a "professional base salary". That is, we're not trying to cut salaries to fund the program. I think this seems reasonable to most everyone involved in this discussion. All up, I'm excited that we're having this discussion.

On the other hand, I am troubled by the NEA's constant emphasis on seniority, and a highly antagonistic view of administrators. It seems disingenuous to say "trust us- teachers will always work hard, no matter what", but then to also say "but we can't trust our administrators to also behave as professionals."

Every time pay for performance is brought up, I hear someone tell me about a terrible principal who couldn't be trusted to evaluate accurately. Perhaps, by implementing something like this, it would highlight who the good administrators are, as well as who the good teachers are.

I'm interested in feedback on this topic. Instead of just telling me why it won't work, please make concrete suggestions for how we could make it possible. Ask yourself, "if someone were willing to pay me significantly more when I overachieve, how would I want them to know that I'd actually overachieved?"

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mercury News Coverage of Loyola

(a guest posting from Stacy Pena, Board member of LAEF)

I wanted to share with you these excerpts from a San Jose Mercury News article:

Parents Give Loyola Real Neighborhood School Feeling

There is something refreshing about finding out that in this frantic commuter-oriented world where everyone is in too much of a hurry to do everything, there still are places like Loyola School. Located in the heart of one of the older residential areas of Los Altos, little Loyola School, built in 1948, is one of those safe and secure neighborhood schools. There is a community feeling which revolves around the school that is hard to define…It’s the kind of school where the kids wear their blue T-shirts with white lettering reading “Loyola School” to class.

The principal is equipped with a very with-it PTA, which generally tries to fill in where diminishing Los Altos School District funds have left holes in the school programs….the PTA principal said “Primarily, what we have at Loyola is a very forward-thinking principal, a very positive person willing to make changes. We had been in a situation where we didn’t have the options for some of the fundraising things we now can do. Now we do.”

There is a philosophy at Loyola that what the school district cannot afford, parents may very well be able to provide.

“It’s fun to be involved at a school where people put out their own effort,” said the PTA president.

Surprised you didn’t see this article in the Merc? That’s because it ran on October 13, 1976 (2 years before Prop 13 took effect!). My mom just gave me the clipping, which she had saved all these years because she was a proud Loyola parent. I was in 5th grade at the time; Dick Liewer (father of Junior Olympics) was the new principal.

Yes, things have changed in 34 years, but not as much as we sometimes think. Instead of despairing over what the district cannot afford, let’s celebrate what we have, and do what we parents have always done, and that’s to “put out our own effort.” Viva LASD!