Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teacher Quality Committee Meeting Minutes 03/23/2010

Teacher Quality – March 23, 2010 Minutes
The meeting was called to order by Dave Black at 4:17 p.m. Members present: Barb Grell, Linda Hahn, Jeanne Bartholow, Sean Dunphy, Pat Thomas, Al Lorenz, Mark Schweer, Kim Jones, Dave Black, Chuck Story, and Laurie Thies.

Approval of Minutes – Motion made by Sean Dunphy to approve the February minutes, seconded by Chuck Story.

Market Factor Pay Plan

Dave Black proposed adding content area specialties to the special education listing for the MS and HS certification areas. Sean Dunphy proposed adding an area of emphasis for candidates seeking the Middle School Generalist endorsement. The law changes on July 1, 2010 to require this addition. After this date, the grade 5-8 listing will not be sufficient and candidates seeking this endorsement must have an area of emphasis.

The committee approved these additions.

There are currently two teachers seeking the Middle School Generalist endorsement. Sean will speak with them about the new law requirements. The committee agreed that, if needed, these teachers can reapply to obtain compensation for extra classes required.

In round 1 of money distribution, 8 candidates applied. Two have completed their endorsements and 5 are still working toward completion. In round 2, the four applicants are still working on their endorsements.

There is currently $5,200 available, so the district will offer a round 3 application process. Information will be forthcoming. Applications are available on the district website and are due by April 15th to the building principal.

Some modifications to the form are being made: adding the endorsements discussed above, changing the monetary amount available, and fixing the date due to the principal.

Chuck raised the question about using the money to assist potential new hires in obtaining their required endorsements. The committee discussed the point. It was decided that this money would be used for people currently under contract at the time of the offering. The TQC could offer another round, if there is money remaining after round 3 that could be used for this purpose.

Barb moved to accept the changes and proposals and to offer round 3 with Mark seconding. It was a unanimous vote to accept the changes.

Reflection on the District Day
Dave shared the information gathered from the District Leadership Team as they reflected on the district day. The TQC shared similar views: felt the day went well, well organized, appeared that all participants appreciated some part of the day’s presentations, provided 2 ways of looking at the Iowa Core.

Teacher Evaluation System

Part I

Dave shared information from the accreditation team visit. The team found the district was lacking evidence that everyone was being evaluated on a consistent basis. Dave proposed having the principals complete a checklist that documents completion of the professional development plan, the two reflections (December, March) and the final reflection. Chuck wondered if it would be sufficient to put the professional development plan and the final reflection together in the file at the ERC. Barb and Sean said they already used a sort of checklist of their own to keep track. Kent agreed. Kim proposed a master list that would allow all the people at the high school to keep track so no person was overlooked. Sean suggested a Google doc where all staff would be listed and all principals could access it. Dave agreed that would be helpful in that all the district employees could be listed and all supervisors could access the same document.

Part II

Dave then brought up a question sent to him by Barb Motes concerning portfolios. There seems to be confusion about whether a teacher must create a portfolio or not. The committee checked the references to a “portfolio” in the evaluation document. It is in two places; the mentor section and the summary sheet. The summary sheet (pg. 39) also provides the district definition of a portfolio: A portfolio is an adequate collection of evidence for each teaching standard that reflects a teacher’s practice over time.

The committee discussed their understanding of the definition. The consensus was that a “portfolio” could take on any form (folder, box, electronic, etc.) The important component is the need for a collection of evidence, over time, for each standard. The TQC felt that the document language was sufficient. People with concerns may still address their TQC and LCEA representatives who can use the Evaluation handbook pg. 39 for clarification.

Part III

Dave raised the issue of incorporating student achievement data into the teacher and principal evaluations. This has arisen as part of the federal focus on tying school monies to requirements that include this expectation. The Race to the Top application made by Iowa includes language about this. The push seems to be towards a growth model (how much the student has improved over the year) rather than the current model of all shall be at grade level proficiencies. This would require multiple assessment measures tied to demonstrating growth.

While Lewis Central is not currently part of the Race to the Top application, this model is a part of the federal and state movement. Dave’s concern is that the district needs to look at professional development around writing good professional development goals that with a focus on improving student achievement. This will help keep the district in alignment with federal and state movements.

The committee members expressed some concern of what types of measures would be used, how many would be considered necessary, the need for the focus to be on growth of a student over the course of a year rather than proficient/not proficient, and the need for the district to work with teachers on this issue.

The TQC is seeking applicants at the elementary level to fill an opening on the committee. The LCEA is working to fill the position.

Laurie Thies moved to adjourn and Al Lorenz seconded. The meeting ended at 5:20 PM.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

LCEA Executive Board Meeting Minutes 3/11/2010

LCEA March Meeting Minutes
Date: 3/11/2010
Place: Titan Hill
Time: 4:15

Roll Call: Barb Motes, Kim McLaughlin, Jennifer Doorlag, Dave Bergman, Tom McLaughlin HS Reps: Allison Towne (ab), Ruth Kreger, Sharon Crawley (ab)
MS Reps: Margot Argotsinger, Beth Frank, Al Lorenz, Dot Sillau
TH Reps: Lisa Scieszinski, Joanna Stenlund, Kathy Dorsey, Farah Guetter
Kreft Reps: LoriAnn Brougham, Lee Dwyer (ab), Angie Tucker (ab)

Secretary’s Report (Kim McLaughlin)
• Bergman moved that the February meeting minutes be approved, Kreger seconded it, and the motion passed.

Treasurer’s Report (Jen Doorlag)
• Bergman moved that the report be approved, Argotsinger seconded it, and the motion passed.

Building Reports
• Kreft: Report cards cannot be printed until all grades are in, and they were supposed to be ready to send out with kids today. The teachers didn’t receive them until the afternoon, at which time, they have to stuff envelopes with the report cards and other papers. There seemed to be no option of sending out the report cards and other papers tomorrow instead.
• Titan Hill: The teacher who was accosted by an administrator was apologized to, we hear. Also, there is a refusal to remove snow from handicapped spots in the parking lot.
• Middle school: They are planning for ITBS, and there is a great deal of stress related to the school being on the list. There are a couple of district policies (social promotion, refusal of content-specific professional development) that could be changed to help the situation. Good news is that some of the kids seem to recognize the need to do well in classes and on tests. There was a long discussion of a mismatch between our curriculum and the ITBS/NWEA exams.
• High school: Everything seems to be going pretty well.

Committee Reports
• Negotiations (Beth Frank): We got the responses about the insurance question. Nineteen said hold firm with our agreement as it is, and eleven said we could look at making changes. Mediation is 5:00 on March 29 at the ERC. This is an open meeting.
• Grievance (Tom McLaughlin): No report regarding grievances.

Old Business
• Elections: K. McLaughlin is waiting to collect ballots. She will count them over the weekend and send out an email with the results.
• The March dinner was canceled because of lack of response. We will reschedule the dinner for post-election.

New Business
• Retiring teacher awards: Titan Hill will handle these.
• Teacher of the Year awards: Kreft will handle these. Each building needs to contact members for their individual Teacher of the Year.
• High School Senior award: The high school will take care of this. K. McLaughlin will have Curt Mace put out the application for the scholarship.
• April Delegate Assembly: The DA will be on April 9-10 in Ames. Tom and Kim McLaughlin, Mary Bleth-Harris, and Dave Bergman will be attending.
• Voting for Tom McLaughlin, Anne Travis, and Margaret Clapper for State Delegate to the NEA RA:

• K. McLaughlin moved that the meeting be adjourned, Stenlund seconded it, and the meeting adjourned at 5:00.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Race to the Top: Which states made the list of finalists?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced Thursday that 15 states and the District of Columbia are finalists for Race to the Top education grants. The winners will be chosen in April.
States competing for billions of dollars in education stimulus funding found out today whether they’re still in the running for the “Race to the Top.”

Out of 41 applications, 15 states and the District of Columbia have made the cut so far. They’ve been invited to Washington to make the case that they will be the best trailblazers for innovation and reform in K-12 public schools.

The competition has been a catalyst “to dramatically reshape America’s educational system ... prompting states to think deeply about how to improve the way we prepare our students for success in a competitive 21st century economy,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in announcing the first round of finalists.

The finalists are: Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

A high bar?

The US Department of Education will announce winners for the grants – totaling $4.35 billion – starting in April, with a second round of applications being considered this summer. The bar is set high and the number of winners in this first round is expected to be small, in the single digits, Secretary Duncan said. President Obama has proposed an additional $1.35 billion in his budget for a third round of such grants.

Some observers say the finalist list would be shorter if the Education Department truly wanted to set a high bar. It includes a lot of “marginally reform-minded states,” says Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

A number of states have passed reforms – to lift caps on charter schools or to allow the linkage of teacher evaluations to student test scores, for instance – partly to compete for the grants.

Yet some states that have made reform efforts, such as California and Michigan, did not make the finals. It remains to be seen whether they’ll reapply for the second round of grants. (Click here to read more about California's major education reform efforts.)

States are being judged on past reforms and how strongly they are planning to pursue changes in four areas:

* Standards to prepare students for college or careers in a global economy.
* Measuring and improving student learning by building better data-tracking systems.
* Recruiting and retaining effective teachers and principals.
* Turning around the worst-performing schools.

What some finalists have done

Tennessee, one of the finalists, passed its First to the Top Act in January. One of the new requirements is that half of evaluation criteria for teachers be based on student achievement data, including standardized tests and statistical estimates of how much gain a given teacher’s students have made – a controversial issue in many states and school districts.

Rhode Island, another finalist, stirred up controversy recently when the Central Falls district fired all of its high school’s teachers in a state-approved plan to turn the school around after it was designated one of the worst in the state. (Click here to read the Monitor's coverage of the Central Falls flap.)

Beyond the states that ultimately win the money, Race to the Top is part of a politically strategic shift to more competitive grants by this administration, says Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform.

States and Congress are “getting used to this notion that [the federal government] is not just going to keep putting money into school systems that are not serving kids the way the nation expects them to," says Mr. Williams. "The public will support more money for education but only if they feel like it’s being put to good use.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Obama angers union officials with remarks in support of R.I. teacher firings

Tuesday, March 2, 2010
By Michael A. Fletcher and Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 2, 2010

President Obama voiced support Monday for the mass firings of educators at a failing Rhode Island school, drawing an immediate rebuke from teachers union officials whose members have chafed at some of his education policies.

Speaking at an event intended to highlight his strategy for turning around struggling schools by offering an increase in federal funding for local districts that shake up their lowest-achieving campuses, Obama called the controversial firings justified.

"If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability," he said. "And that's what happened in Rhode Island last week at a chronically troubled school, when just 7 percent of 11th-graders passed state math tests -- 7 percent."

The board that oversees Central Falls High School took the startling step last week of firing 93 teachers and other staff members after the teachers union refused to agree to a plan for them to work a longer school day and provide after-school tutoring without much extra pay.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, whose union represents the faculty in Central Falls, one of the poorest districts in Rhode Island, responded forcefully to Obama's remarks.

"We know it is tempting for people in Washington to score political points by scapegoating teachers, but it does nothing to give our students and teachers the tools they need to succeed," she said in a joint statement with other union officials.

In an interview, Weingarten said Obama's comments about the school "don't reflect the reality on the ground and completely ignore the commitment teachers have made to turn things around." Weingarten said the union was "profoundly disappointed by the comments" and said the president "seems to be focused on . . . incomplete information."

Obama has often challenged union orthodoxy in his education agenda, promoting the expansion of public charter schools -- which frequently are not unionized -- and teacher performance pay. The two major national educators unions are not formally opposed to those ideas, but many of their members are skeptical.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said repeatedly that he wants to work with unions rather than impose reforms on them, and the National Education Association, with 3.2 million members, and the AFT, with 1.4 million members, have generally sought to play down policy differences with the administration.

Obama's comments came as he spoke at a meeting of America's Promise Alliance, a group founded by former secretary of state Colin L. Powell and his wife, Alma. The group has launched an initiative aimed at curbing the nation's school dropout rate.

"This is a problem we cannot afford to accept and we cannot afford to ignore," Obama said during the event, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters.

The White House said 1.2 million students drop out of school each year. The problem is concentrated in the nation's poorest schools and among minority students.

Obama has sought to combat the problem with an infusion of federal aid for school districts that develop innovative plans to help students graduate. With the proposed funding, Obama is placing a bet on four strategies to fix thousands of failing schools.

Each of the strategies, at minimum, appears to require replacing the school's principal. The "turnaround" model would also require replacing at least half the school staff.

"Restart" schools would be transferred to the control of independent charter networks or other school management organizations. "Transformation" schools would be required to take steps to raise teacher effectiveness and increase learning time, among other measures. The fourth strategy would be closing a school and dispersing its students.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Decision to fire all of R.I. school's teachers sad, desperate

By Valerie Strauss
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, March 1, 2010

Finally, a school system has decided to fire all the educators at an ailing school.
Why didn't we think of this sooner?
Firing some of them hasn't really proven effective in turning around schools, has it? So why not get rid of all of them and start over?
The school committee in Central Falls, Rhode Island's smallest and poorest city, voted to fire every educator at Central Falls High School at the end of the school year. The committee did this because about half of the school's students graduate, and only 7 percent of 11th-graders were proficient in math in 2009.
At the committee meeting Tuesday night, 93 names were called for firing -- 74 classroom teachers, plus reading specialists, guidance counselors, physical education teachers, the school psychologist, the principal and three assistant principals, according to the Providence Journal. Not one was good enough to stay.
Some of the teachers at the city's only high school cried, but the committee held firm.
It's no wonder that Education Secretary Arne Duncan applauded the move, saying the committee members were "showing courage and doing the right thing for kids."
Courage, indeed.
Now, all they have to do is find 93 excellent professionals to take their places. Recruiting the best educators should be easy, especially when you can offer them life in a very poor town and a job with no security.
h school students because their poor performance was all about the adults at the high school.
Their elementary and middle school education -- or lack thereof? Not a problem. Their sometimes difficult home lives? Naw. That doesn't affect how a kid does at school.
No Child Left Behind, a federal law that has driven schools to narrow curriculum and use rudimentary standardized tests to measure progress? Not an issue.
Firing all the educators may sound bold to some, but it sounds sad and desperate to me.
There is no evidence that wholesale changes at schools make a difference at schools, though it has been tried repeatedly in districts around the country -- even in Duncan's Chicago public schools, which he ran for years before leading the Education Department.
Duncan tried a lot of things during his more than seven years as Chicago schools chief: shutting down schools, hiring experts in turning around schools and firing a lot of people. The results? To put it nicely, there was no Chicago miracle. Some schools improved, others didn't.
That's because grand gestures don't work to improve schools. It would be nice if they did, but time and time again, we've learned they don't. Making schools work is a very difficult job. There is no one thing to blame; there is no single remedy that works for every school or district.
Let Duncan call those school officials courageous. It sounds foolish to me. And the people who will suffer most? As usual, the kids.