Wednesday, June 12, 2013

JCPS contract should be modernized

This from Craig J. Richard and David P. Calzi in the Courier-Journal:
The evidence is indisputable; the future of our community depends on ensuring that every child in Jefferson County gets a quality education. It’s an economic imperative … and it’s the right thing to do. To paraphrase Bill Gates, “making sure our children get a great education, find a career that’s fulfilling and rewarding, and have a chance to live out their dreams, wouldn’t just make us a more successful country — it would also make us a more fair and just one too.” 

On behalf of the more than 100,000 students currently enrolled in Jefferson County Public Schools, the time for us to answer this call is now. If we, as business and community leaders — and as citizens — want Louisville to fulfill its destiny of being a great city, then we must be willing to do whatever it takes to make JCPS one of the best school districts in the country.

There is broad agreement that the mandate for the district must be student achievement — ensuring all students graduate from high school with the core academic knowledge and skills necessary for success in college, career and whatever life throws their way.

We all have something to gain from an outstanding public school system.

• At Greater Louisville Inc., we know that the reputation of our local school system can either be an asset or a drawback for economic development decision-makers. An even more important advantage is the quality and availability of talent — a key factor when companies make a choice about where to expand or relocate their operations.

• As business owners know, their success is dependent on finding the right employees with the right education and skills to fill open positions. Whether you are a manufacturer looking for a welder or a service company looking for an information technology specialist, human capital is consistently a top priority.

• As citizens, we all have many reasons to want the best for our current and future generations. Even if you aren’t convinced for altruistic reasons, consider the cost-benefit analysis. Children who drop out of high school are more likely to end up dependent on public assistance or incarcerated, costing us more as taxpayers in the long run.

As a community, we have a timely opportunity to address some of the challenges facing the district in its pursuit of success for all students.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the contract between JCPS and the Jefferson County Teachers Association is being renegotiated. There are several critical areas in the contract that need to be revised and modernized to better reflect today’s education realities, such as teacher assignments, including transfer policies and how vacancies are addressed; teacher work rules and hours; teacher performance evaluations; and teacher compensation.

Further, we believe that the contract must be designed to achieve systemic changes to be truly effective. There has been a lot of conversation about making changes for the 18 priority schools, where improvement is absolutely an imperative. However, the answer to lasting, comprehensive progress at JCPS is system-wide policies and practices focused on increases in student achievement across the entire district.

We do not doubt that the district, the Board of Education, JCTA, and the professional teaching community all believe in creating the right environment for student success. What we expect is for all sides to work together in finding solutions that remove any barriers that keep us from reaching that goal.

All eyes will be on JCPS, the Board of Education, and JCTA in the next few weeks as they renew their commitment to our next generation. We encourage you to get interested, speak up and stay involved in the success of JCPS. There is no more important investment that we can make than the education of our children.


Anonymous said...

The entire profession needs to do like KCTC and a few other places and divest itself of the concept of "tenure" - that is what needs to be moved into the modern time frame. I genuinely believe that good educators will always have jobs because of their ability, no different than any other profession. This fear of the unjust boss is no different than any other profession. In the rest of the world good employees find positions at other business and institutions when their current boss or business becomes unsatisfactory. Folks would still find a significant amount of protection under existing laws addressing terminations which non-educators are covered by. Similarly, good schools want good educators, good educators for all 27 or more years of their service not just the first five. The rest of the world doesn't waste time on remediation plans, hearing, etc. They spend their time making decisions and investing time in promising human capital not trying to nurse along or battle folks who aren't getting it done.

Richard Day said...

Just fire the bad folks? That's all it takes to be modern?

From what I'vei seen of American business lately, you can have it. Let's just skip over other economic collapse for the moment.

I'm old enough to remember when American business was about making a solid product and a fair profit. Now, we had a hard time speaking to a human being about a problem that requires service. Automated and online help resources are limited to common problems only. If you want to buy, the company can help you today. But if you want the average company to service their product you'll have to wait til next week.

Who are these bad folks getting fired? I see staffing being cut to the bone everywhere, but lost staff are not being replaced by better workers so much as companies are trimming to maintain profit margins for owners and shareholders (who overpay CEOs to handle the dirty work).

Look at journalism, medicine, financial services, corporate law, tech companies....excellent long term employees are being dumped for cheaper talent.

I'm not one who ever hid behind tenure, but there is a good reason for its existence.

Anonymous said...

So what is that reason for keeping the idea of tenure and if it is so important why don't other professions apply it? Seems like the right to due process has become overblown to be something much more than it was intended to be.

To me I see how the current tenure system continues to disgard new talent with contemporary, technology savy skills in order to protect folks who happend to make it under the five year rope. I am interviewing new teachers who use more technology skills in their interview than some seasoned teachers use all year. The problem is not getting rid of the really bad ones but trying to keep the marginal to average folks growing for a quarter of a century of employment in basically the same position.

Let's not romanticize the past. I am not that much different in age and I can remember poor service, cars that didn't last to 100,000 miles and vendors that only worked M-F from 8 - 4 and would only answer the one phone that was hard wired to the wall of their shop. (Heaven forbid you needed anything on a Sunday)

If what you are saying is on point, then the current education trends in terms of service don't seem that much different to me than the private sector's current performance level that you describe. Seems like the answer to everything is rooted in technology as a means of increasing delivery but at a cost of actual human service to students. Outsourcing labor has been replaced with interactive software and online programs. Each month it is a new vendor promising greater performance with more whistles and bells but no real data to support their claims. Whether you're talking credit recovery, enrichment or acceleration we are transforming the art of instruction into some sort of prepackaged techno product that is suppose to serve urban hispanic kids in Houston the same as ones in rural Minnasota.

I am sorry, I am straying off point but sometimes teachers start to lose it after a few years for a variety of personal and professional reasons but for social, familial or financial reasons they don't pull the ripcord and struggle on doing only what has to be done. I have seen it as a factory worker and I have seen it as a school administrator. What do you do with those folks, espcially under a system which use to allow for a fair amount of freedom and independence but now tries to box each teacher into the exact same frame of performance?

Richard Day said...

We may disagree, but I do think the teaching profession is different from selling insurance, or real estate, or working in technologies, building cars, or most other fields. Our universities have stood, and stand today, as places where freedom of thought has allowed challenges to governmental and other sources of power by force of reasoning, rather than physical force. We have seen that academic freedom threatened from time to time and I believe it would be naïve for us to believe it would not happen again.

Tenure is a due process right. It is not a guarantee of lifetime employment. It means that a university cannot fire a tenured professor without presenting evidence of incompetence or unprofessional behavior. But tenured professors may be terminated if an academic department is closed or in serious financial difficulties. Nationally about 2% of tenured professors are dismissed in a typical year.

I have been tenured as a teacher in Kentucky, and have now been approved by the EKU Board of Regents to receive a tenured contract in the fall. You don’t have to believe me, but I would testify that the process of receiving tenure in higher Education is much more rigorous. By design, tenure in higher ed is harder to obtain, and it is harder to overcome. (And for the record, everything I have written to date about EKU, the Regents’ Chair, the presidential candidates, budget reallocation, and whatever else, has been done as a non-tenured professor.)

Historically, the academy has challenged ideas that were closely held by the church and the government. Professors have been sanctioned in the strongest possible ways in some attempts to squelch the publication of contrary ideas. That sort of thing only rarely happens in private sector business and is usually associated with whistleblower activity. My father was in real estate; one of his brothers was an insurance underwriter, and the other an electrician. None of them were at risk for firing due to their studied opinions, or because their research produced the wrong numbers. At the University of Oklahoma, state legislators tried to get Anita Hill fired for her testimony (under oath) in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. If not for tenure, professors could be attacked with every change of the political winds.

Just to keep things in perspective, I should note that no more than a third of university faculty members are tenured – most are not. Part-time (adjunct) faculty are not eligible for tenure and they are exploited to some degree every day, largely due to low per class salaries, and few if any benefits.

It is my studied opinion that higher education is a special case. Absent tenure we could not be the “gadfly on the body politic” that Socrates envisioned. Since gadflies are often unwelcome, our protections are presently in danger of being removed at all but the finest private institutions.

(Technology is set of tools; not pedagogy. And the car that now runs 2 and a half times farther, costs 4 times more.)

I am taken by your final paragraph however and wonder if you are arguing against yourself a bit. Do you wish things were different? If I am hearing you correctly, you seem to understand how teachers and factory workers are less distinguishable than used to be the case. Testing used to be about improving instruction for kids. Now it’s about accountability, and the evaluation systems are most typically unfair, and in the worst cases positively anti-scientific. As a K-12 school administrator you must move your numbers and any teachers that fails to pull their weight have to go. The alternative is that you are the one who gets fired. I imagine lots of folks keep one hand on the ripcord, principals most of all.

Thanks for the comment.