Archive for November, 2010

Gates and USED on the same money saving path

This week, Bill Gates and Arne Duncan both gave speeches highlighting ways that school districts (and states) can save money by better allocating current dollars. While I agree with this avenue of thinking because it just makes sense, it’s also important to recognize that Gates and USED are supporting the same strategies. Too often the philanthropic community and the federal government have been at odds with each other, and by combining forces, success is much more likely.

States and districts must use the current financial constraints as a reason to reform how they track, distribute and use money. Programs that are not effective should be eliminated, and we must look at better ways to increase long-term capacity and sustainability within schools, the district, and state education agencies.

Duncan commented, “School officials should be using this crisis ‘leverage transformational change in the education system’ rather than seeking to balance budgets through shorter school years, reduced bus routes or other short-term fixes.”

Gates recognizes that making such systemic changes are not easy, “that it’s like kicking a beehive,” and that it will require significant political will at the top and support through the ranks. But, how else can we expect to get better results from students if we continue to fund the educational system the same way it’s been funded for the last 50 years (and that has contributed to the current abysmal state of many of our schools).

At the same AEI sponsored conference that featured Duncan, Nogales superintendent Shawn McCollough stated, “It’s not so much rocket science but more making tough decisions and being accountable for them,” adding that local interests and politics are often barriers to making the “right” budget choices. “We don’t need any more research on best practices. … We need leaders on the front lines who are willing to do what’s morally right from a fiscal perspective to put kids first.”

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Kudos to Baltimore

The Baltimore Teachers Union (affiliated with the AFT) approved the proposed contract, just one month after the rejection of a similar contract. The new contract, along with a few other exemplars (i.e. Colorado) should become national models for contract negotiations. The quality of implementation of the conditions will test the meaning behind the language, but the fact that the new contract changes some of the long-standing practices truly changes what is possible. Now, some of these practices need to be incorporated into state code for the states that don’t have local collective bargaining.

Stephen Sawchuk of EdWeek discusses some of the details, “There are a lot of new details in this plan, but arguably its newsiest feature is that it restructures the base-pay system for teachers, which in nearly every district in the country is based on credentials and longevity. There won’t be any more automatic “step” increases each year in Baltimore; raises will be based on collecting achievement units from good evaluations and participation in professional development… One [graduate] credit is just one achievement unit, while a superior evaluation is 12. So getting good evaluations is a much faster way to increase one’s pay. Teachers can also advance up a career ladder, taking on additional roles as they earn good evaluations and pass a peer review. The contract is important in the larger national conversation about teacher pay, too, because to date most experiments with pay have been with additive features, like bonuses, rather than changes to the base-pay salary grid.”

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An abundance of news…

Ron Huberman is leaving Chicago Public Schools at the end of the month. Who will Mayor Daley appoint as the Interim? Will it be someone who can prepare the organization for a new mayor and a new CEO, or could it be someone who the new mayor would want to keep after the elections? Will it be a Superintendent or a CEO? Lots of pressure from the union and community groups to get rid of mayoral control and create a “blue ribbon panel” to select a new CEO.

One of Mayoral candidate Gery Chico’s supporters used her CPS email to solicit attendees for an education-oriented fundraiser. See more here. Ethics much?

An EdWeek article, Regular Public Schools Mimic Charters, discusses ways that charter schools are sharing their best/promising practices with traditional public schools. Additional issues that are not addressed in the article: many charters are not successful, so which ones are sharing their practices? Since an increasing number of traditional public schools are gaining charter-like conditions, how can charter schools and charter management organizations be better used to train & educate traditional public school principals and district leaders about how to use these new levels of autonomy & authorities? At the same time, how can successful charter schools share their promising practices with underperforming charter schools?

The Huffington Post recently posted a column entitled Education for Democracy: If Teachers Were Treated Like Doctors. I strongly disagree with the some of the claims, but I think it’s important to bring these issues to the table. I’d like to know how many doctors would be able to keep their licenses if more than half their patients didn’t make it? How many hospitals would remain open if they had the same problem (i.e. districts)? How many doctors would continue to earn their full salaries even if they didn’t see any patients and were not allowed to see patients for one reason or another, i.e. NYC’s Rubber Room?

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SIG promising practices from Virginia

Check out a recent publication that I put together for the Center on Innovation and Improvement

Forging Strong Working Relationships Among the State, District, School, and External Lead Partners for the Implementation of School Improvement Grants

A Lead Turnaround Partner (LTP) is hired to implement a school improvement model in a persistently low-achieving school, but what’s the next step? What’s the best way to start implementation? Who leads the process? How is a good working relationship with the external Lead Turnaround Partner, the district, the school, and the state created? What’s working and what’s not working across the country?

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