Thursday, December 31, 2015

JCTA President Defends Teachers’ Unions Against Bevin’s Criticism

This from WFPL:
The president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association says Gov. Matt Bevin’s assertion that teachers’ unions hinder schools’ success is unfounded and irresponsible.
Gov. Matt Bevin

Bevin, a Republican, lashed out teachers’ unions on Tuesday at an event in West Louisville to support charter schools. At the event, Bevin said teachers’ unions protect “those who don’t need to be protected” —  namely, by providing job protection for ineffective educators.

Brent McKim, the president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said Bevin made a “ridiculous assertion.” McKim said teachers’ unions don’t protect bad teachers, but they do work to protect a “fair process.”

Jefferson County Public Schools has about 6,000 teachers, and about 95 percent are part of the union, McKim said.
“For the governor to try to draw a distinction between teachers and their union in Jefferson County shows a real lack of understanding on his part,” McKim said.
New teachers are subject to a four-year screening process during which they may be dismissed at any time, for any reason, McKim said. The process is meant to weed out ineffective teachers. This comes after teachers have participated in a years-long training program, which includes college and student teaching, McKim said.

“There’s really no reason to believe that we have ineffective teachers when we have that rigorous multi-year screening process to ensure that anyone that gets a continuing contract is effective,” he said.

Teachers receiving a continuing contract following the four-year provisional period can still be ousted, but the district must provide a definitive reason for the firing, McKim said.

Teachers are subject to the state accepted Danielson Framework for Teaching, which allows for what he called a flexible evaluation process to determine effectiveness, McKim said.

While teachers that have progressed beyond the four-year provisional phase of their career should be effective in the classroom, there are rare occasions when a teacher will lose the ability to effectively educate students.

“This does happen,” he said.

JCTA Pres. Brent McKim
A Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman said the district keeps a close working relationship with the teachers’ union to ensure educators have the resources they need in the classroom.

Still, McKim said Bevin’s blaming struggling schools in Jefferson County on ineffective teachers is “naive and inaccurate.”

“There are a host of factors that lead to poor performance of a student in school,” he said.

Most of those factors, he said, have nothing to do with teachers, but rather  parents, home-life and “literal trauma” experiences outside the school.

“Blaming teachers for all of these factors, as if they’re in control of all of that, is inaccurate,” he said, adding that teachers account for about 10 to 15 percent of the influence in a student’s educational performance.

McKim encouraged Bevin to give teachers’ unions the “benefit of the doubt.”

He said he’s yet to sit down and discuss the issue with Bevin, though he has attempted to set up a meeting.

Charters are generally state-funded schools operated by organizations outside the local school system.
Jefferson County Teachers Association members don’t see charter schools as the answer to the district’s problem, McKim said.

“What they see is the need for more flexibility among the public schools and the need to invest in our public schools rather than privatizing public education and essentially allowing a corporate takeover of our public schools,” McKim said.

Kentucky is among a handful of states that do not allow charter schools.  Republican state legislators have pushed charter schools in recent years, but Democrats in the House haven’t taken up the issue.


Richard Innes said...

If McKim really wants more flexibility in the school system, a great place to start would be to allow the district more ability to place experienced teachers where they are most needed. But, his union’s contract interferes with that.

A report compiled by the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability in 2010 discussed how the union contract impacted the restaffing of Jefferson County’s Persistently Low-Achieving Schools, as they were then called. Too many of Jefferson County’s lowest performing schools wound up with relatively few experienced teachers and far too many new hires. It was a sweet deal for adults in the system, but it’s no wonder that many Jefferson County schools remain on the low-performing list today. Read about the union issues with restaffing in Legislative Research Commission Report RR-378, online here: Some key parts of the discussion are found on Pages 35, 51 and 52.

By the way, several years ago the then head of the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board, Phil Rogers, told me this state does not even have a standardized procedure to deal with teachers who simply don’t do a good job in the classroom. Per Rogers, without such a procedure, an attempt to remove a tenured teacher who simply has lost interest, or maybe never really had much talent for teaching, is essentially impossible. In fact, at that time Rogers told me no-one had ever successfully removed a teacher on tenure simply for bad teaching. To my knowledge, this remains true to today.

Richard Day said...

If teachers were paid a million dollars a year, like professional athletes or highly paid executives, then I’d say “fine.” Trade ‘em…or send them to the Buffalo office. But to tell some $40k per year teachers that they are going to be sent to a school across town, whether they like it or not, completely disregards employee rights. It might even be illegal if it was perceived to be punitive.

I have no doubt that JCTA’s contract mitigates against the district’s ability to pick faculty for individual schools. But it’s the same everywhere. Competitive principals are always looking for strong teachers to attract to their schools. I can recall a few high quality teachers I was able to recruit from other schools…several of them serving in lower SES schools. To my knowledge, the recruits liked being at Cassidy and it certainly enhanced what we were able to offer our community, but it probably did not help the prior school.

In my opinion, both Bevin and McKim overstate their cases.

To my knowledge, Rogers was (and likely still is) correct. Tribunals have a lousy track record of disciplining teachers for incompetence. It’s better when there is some specific cause. EPSB is understaffed and has a big backlog of cases.

Bringyoursaddlehome said...

Seems like the revolving door in Jefferson County at risk schools is not one frequented exclusively by teacher but by school administrator's also. Even the most selfish motivation of continued employment would seem to point toward principals working to get rid of ineffective teachers. (Not to say that student learning isn't the central motivation for such action).

What do folks think is going to happen if we establish a few charter schools, especially if run by third party vendors? I guarantee they aren't going to be hiring seasoned educators. Heck, what seasoned educator would go there if they knew they could get canned according to whatever criteria the charter school decides to apply to teacher evaluation - no doubt student performance on state/national exams.

I agree with Dr. Day, in that both gentlemen overstate their cases.

Richard Innes said...

Richard, a lot of members of the military are paid less than Jefferson County teachers, and they go where the need is with little bickering.

For some reference, a very quick web search indicates a second Lieutenant with less than two years of service might be on the front lines, but his basic pay is only $35,211.60 per year. Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger Pay only adds another $2,700 per year.

On the other hand, average classroom teacher salaries in Kentucky and in Jefferson County for 2014-15 were $51,635 and $60,307, respectively per KDE's latest Excel spreadsheet.

One more note: OEA did a report involving collective bargaining agreements a few years back (RR-377). Among other things, this report says:

"All CBAs except Jefferson County’s have limited impacts on school staffing. The Jefferson County contract, however, strongly affects the staffing policies in the district. The staffing policy is seniority driven, providing the most experienced teachers preference in transferring to open positions across the district. In addition, Jefferson County’s contract includes a paper transfer provision that constrains the autonomy of principals and councils to potentially retain new hires made after August 1 of each school year."

Basically, the locals with Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) outside of Jefferson County allow the district leadership to place teachers where needed. Not so in Jefferson County. So, why are teachers in Jefferson County so resistant to something more progressive teachers in other parts of the state recognize as important to the good functioning of their school system?

Richard Day said...

Bull. The military is not a fair comparison given the requirements of the work. Even there, you are comparing officers in the military to rank and file teachers. Find me a comparable field with Masters Degree or better educational requirements for the basic job and you will get my attention.

I do agree with your implication that JCTA has benefited all JCPS teachers by negotiating for higher salaries.

I have no argument with the OEA report.

You may be willing to discard employee rights for all teachers, but I am not.

Richard Innes said...

Starting teachers in Kentucky are surprisingly comparable to a 2nd Lieutenant. You don't need Masters Degrees to start teaching.

As a note, most military officers today who advance to about Major and above also have Masters' Degrees to stay competitive.

Teachers do have rights, but when they conflict with the needs of students, the students' needs should come first. To the credit of most of our teachers, they understand that and local contracts don't interfere with the district's ability to place teachers where needed -- except for Jefferson County. I guess you did not catch that the first time.

Bringyoursaddlehome said...

I can't believe the basis of this argument is a financial comparison between teachers and military officer's salaries. Though the role and responsibilities are completely different, let's take a look at the numbers anyway.

First and with all do respect to our military, I don't see teachers having their college course work, insurance, medical care, housing and food provided to them for free in addition to their salary.

As for the actual salary comparison, an Army Major with 6 years experience makes $ 69,987 ( A JCPS Rank II with 6 years of experience makes $53,385, or $16,602 less (JCPS).

Also as we know, teachers in most all of Kentucky with rank II and six years of experience make even less than JCPS teachers. For example, Adair County (I selected Adair simply because it was the first district on KDE's salary schedule listing) pays rank II teachers with 6 years of experience $42,523 - $27,464 less than an Army Major and $10,862 less than an Jefferson County Public School Teacher.

What this seems to indicate to me is that there is no comparison between an Army officer's salary & benefits and that of a teacher in Kentucky - hands down, teachers are compensated far less.

I think that instead of vilifying the Jefferson County Teacher Union for some misperceived idea that it is the root cause for the district's failing schools, we should actually applaud their efforts to attempt to seek fair compensation for teachers' work. It would seem that those non-JCPS teachers who don't employ collective bargaining through union representation can earn up to 25% less than their JCPS counterparts.

It is the same old story, critics want to blame teachers for shortcomings in student academic performance when many of the factors influencing that success are beyond their control. Not much different than blaming the soldier for not stabilizing Iraq or Afganistan, destroying ISSL or even defeating the Viet Kong

When teachers are doing all they can in serving students and as a result seek adequate compensation and benefits for their work, they are portrayed as greedy or that they are not putting "the students' needs...first". Again, not much different than active duty soliders requesting adequate gear or veterans seeking support services through VA Medical Centers and being marginalized because the government doesn't seem to have the resources to support their legitimate needs as a result of the veterans' service.

Richard Day said...

Unfortunately, Richard doesn't seem to place much value in public schools, public school teachers, or government workers in general.