Washington State Teachers Shout,”Show Me The Money!”

Finally, Washington State teachers are getting paid more fairly given the importance of their hard work. At least in 2018-2019.

Due to increased funding for teacher salaries as a result of a long awaited court decision, all 295 school districts have to negotiate individual agreements with their teachers. Despite school starting tomorrow, 6-7% of the districts still have not settled.

The result has been a serious money grab, meaning teachers are paying no attention to whether the serious raises they’re winning are sustainable beyond 2018-2019. And I completely understand that. “We’ve been underpaid for way too long,” teachers are saying. “This is the time to right that wrong. Let others determine the sustainability and put the pieces back together if it proves not to be.”

Starting teachers will now make 50-65k, veteran teachers, 100-115k. To which I say, right on! I celebrate my teacher friends’ improved salaries not just because of my fondness for them as individuals, but because I think it has the potential to strengthen the profession which would be a significant step toward thriving communities.

But it only has the potential if the markedly improved salaries are sustainable and they most likely are not unless the state legislature loosens limits on levy spending on salaries. Time will tell how sympathetic the state legislators are to hemorrhaging districts. My guess, not very. This is two steps forward, in a year’s time, anticipate one large one back.

Some of the unintended consequences of suddenly improved teacher salaries:

• Unless today’s gains are partially or largely clawed back in subsequent negotiations, college graduates will give teaching much more serious consideration. Teacher education programs will see more applicants, and therefore, be more selective. Teacher candidates will be more representative of their undergraduate graduating classes, meaning stronger academically. Hopefully, they’ll have similar heart.

• Recruiting future school administrators will be much more difficult. Washington State administrators are not included in the large salary improvements teachers are making. Consequently, now, in some cases, top teacher pay equals administrators’ pay. To which some principals in the state are asking, “Why am I working 60 more days a year, with added hours and stress, without any additional compensation?” Fewer applicants to administrator preparation programs means principal certification programs will be less selective, meaning a dilution in the quality of future school leaders.

• Teacher education and Principal Certification programs will have a much harder time recruiting quality faculty. At my university, Assistant Professor’s begin in the low 50’s, which is less than a 23 year-old graduate of any of our teacher education programs will now make. So imagine that 23 year old says to me, “I want your job in ten years, what would you advise.” I’d say, “Teach 6-7 years, then spend 3-4 years getting a PhD (consider not just the cost of tuition, but the lost salary) and then apply. If successful, you’ll make about 60% of what you would if you had continued your K-12 teaching career.” University life has many advantages, but how many people can afford that kind of economic hit?

I’m sure there are other ripple effects I’m not anticipating, but these are important ones. Stay tuned sports fans, should be interesting.

 

 

 

Friday Assorted Links

1. The British Open has always been my favorite golf tournament because of the history, creative shot making, hellish bunkers, cold wind and rain, and the gorse of course. I’m going to miss it.

Englishman Nick Faldo, a three-time Open champion, said it is no longer correct to call it the Open Championship. “Now it’s ‘The Open. In another five years, it will just be called ‘The.’ ”

2. Tyler Cowen on his writing process.

“I try to write a few pages every day. I don’t obsess over the counting, I just do as much as I can and stop before I feel I am done, so I am eager to start up again the next day, or after lunch. That to me is very important, not to write too much in a single day, but to get something written every single day.”

3. Principals are loath to give teachers bad ratings.

“When principals are asked their opinions of teachers in confidence and with no stakes attached, they’re much more likely to give harsh ratings, researchers found.”

4. So this is why eldest daughter chooses to live in Chicago.

“Another interesting trend is that all cities in Southwest, from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, are taco cities. Burrito cities are mostly from the Midwest and West. California has cities in both categories. It appears that SoCal prefers tacos (LA and San Diego), while NorCal prefers burritos (San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose).”

Clearly, burritos > tacos, so I need to visit Indianapolis and San Fransisco.

5A. Trumpcare collapsed because the Republican Party cannot govern.

“In truth, it was never possible to reconcile public standards for a humane health-care system with conservative ideology. In a pure market system, access to medical care will be unaffordable for a huge share of the public. Giving them access to quality care means mobilizing government power to redistribute resources, either through direct tax and transfers or through regulations that raise costs for the healthy and lower them for the sick. Obamacare uses both methods, and both are utterly repugnant and unacceptable to movement conservatives. That commitment to abstract anti-government dogma, without any concern for the practical impact, is the quality that makes the Republican Party unlike right-of-center governing parties in any other democracy. In no other country would a conservative party develop a plan for health care that every major industry stakeholder calls completely unworkable.”

5B. The Republican healthcare meltdown.

“The larger lesson of this sorry episode is that nobody—not McConnell, or Trump, or House Speaker Paul Ryan—can resolve the contradictions of today’s Republican Party. Once the political arm of the Rotary Club and the affluent suburbs, the Party is increasingly one of middle-class and working-class voters, many of whom are big beneficiaries of federal programs, such as Medicaid and the Obamacare subsidies for the purchase of private insurance. But the G.O.P. remains beholden to its richest, most conservative donors, many of whom espouse a doctrine of rolling back the government and cutting taxes, especially taxes applicable to themselves and other very rich people. It was the donors and ideologues, with Ryan as their front man, who led the assault on the Affordable Care Act.”

5C. Trump’s clueless abdication of presidential responsibility.

“Predictable and despicable” are more apt than “clueless”.

“The first duty of any President is to protect the welfare of the citizenry. In blithely threatening to allow the collapse of the Obamacare exchanges, through which some twelve million Americans have purchased health insurance, Trump was ignoring this duty. Arguably, he was violating his oath of office, in which he promised to ‘faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States.'”

Retrain Your Brain to Be Grateful Part Two

Ledgerwood’s and the others research applies most poignantly to teaching. Consider this hypothetical. A teacher has 25 students, four whom really like her, 19 who don’t have strong feelings one way or the other, and two who really dislike her class. The two act out regularly and are highly skilled at getting under her skin. Even though they represent 8% of the classroom total, they occupy 80% of the teacher’s thinking. Consequently, they teacher wrongly concludes that most of the students are unhappy and thinks negatively about their work more generally.

This phenomenon, which Ledgerwood describes as “getting stuck in the loss frame” applies to school administrators too. More often than not, administrators’ thinking is disproportionately influenced by a few especially adversarial faculty.

Maybe the same applies to doctors working with lots of patients or ministers interacting with numerous parishioners. Or anyone whose work is characterized by continuous personal interactions.

Ledgerwood ends her talk by sharing the personal example of being pressed by her husband to “think of the good things” that happened during her day. And she’s quick to describe two positive memories. But what if you’re work or life situation is so difficult that when it comes to cultivating gratitude, you can’t gain any traction or develop positive momentum?

If I was to take the baton from Ledgerwood at the end of her talk, I’d pivot from psychology to sociology. Meaning you greatly increase your odds of being more positive if you consciously surround yourself with “gain framers”. The inverse of this, you greatly increase your odds of being more grateful if you assiduously avoid people who are “stuck in the loss frame”.

Ledgerwood contends we have to work really hard at retraining our brains. The sociological corollary is we have to be more intentional about who we seek out to partner with—whether in our work lives or our personal lives.

What Chester Finn’s Fordham Institute Gets Wrong about School Principals

Jacoba Urist in The Atlantic asks, “Should Principals Be Treated Like CEOs?”

Urist references a new report just released by Finn’s Fordham Institute. Chester Finn’s answer is “Yes, principals should be treated like CEOs.” As usual, he’s clueless. And offensive.

According to Finn’s Fordham Institute, inadequate salaries and limited power over key hiring decisions make the job an increasingly tougher sell. Consequently, good principals come and go. Their solution? “Stop viewing principals as ‘glorified teachers’ and more as “executives with expertise in instruction, operations, and finance.” “To that end,” Finn believes, “principals should earn considerably more than other school staff who have less responsibility.”  As in $100k more.

Hey Chester, the term “glorified teachers” is revealing. Now we know how you feel about the lifeblood of schools. Most teachers have at least as much expertise in instruction as their principals most of whom haven’t taught on a daily basis for decades.

And your suggested pay “bump” reveals how little you know about school culture, administrator-teacher relations, and faculty morale more generally. A typical teacher makes $50k, a principal, $120k*. Both work extremely hard and have lots of responsibility if you count shaping 30 children’s or 150 adolescents’s lives. The current pay gap often breeds animosity and contributes to adversarial relations. You’re proposing doubling the gap again, so that school CEO’s make four times more than teachers. The predictable result? Twice the current animosity.

In fairness, Finn deserves credit for acknowledging that an additional $100k by itself won’t solve the problem of attracting and retaining a new generation of excellent principals if they’re not given greater professional respect and autonomy. But Checker fails to connect the dots. Those are the exact same things teachers want and deserve.

Far more insightful than Finn is Todd Whitaker, professor of educational leadership at Indiana State University and author of the book What GreatPrincipals Do Differently. Whitaker says, “. . . most principals would rather have a full-time assistant than a hefty raise. It’s not necessarily even the hours. It’s the intensity. The truth is, if we gave principals an assistant or a lot more money, we probably end up giving them increased responsibilities and we’re right back where we started.”

Urist adds:

In other words,  one way to fix the leadership shortage may be not increased salary, but additional funding for assistant principals, school counselors, and other administrative support staff. Principals are like all people with high responsibility, according to Kate Rousmaniere, professor of educational leadership at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio and author of The Principal’s Office: A Social History of the American School Principal. They work better in teams, where they can share the workload.

Urist honors the complexity of the topic by concluding with questions:

The task, then, is to strike the right balance. How much should we pay principals to attract new talent, and how much additional support do they need to meet the demands of the modern job? How do we make the role more appealing to promising candidates without pouring more money into retaining ineffective people already in place?

Given the ratio of administrators to teachers, even paying principals a lot more would be considerably less expensive for districts. However, doing so will result in unintended consequences, most of which will be negative.

* I call bullshit on the “in many districts some aspiring teachers take a pay cut on the way to the principal’s office” assertion. There may be an isolated case or two of that, the technical term being “outlier”, but the average teacher doubles his/her pay when they become administrators.

 

Just Maybe The Most Important Thing to Look for in a Friend, Spouse, Work Environment

Generosity? Dependability? Energy? Care? Smarts? Loyalty? Connections? Kindness? Humility? Patience? Optimism? I’ll wait while you cast your vote. . .

My answer came to me Friday night at the Puget Marina off Johnson Point Rd in North Olympia. The Puget Marina has the single best view of the Puget Sound and Mount Rainier of any one place I’ve ever stood. I was there Friday night because Scott, a principal friend, was being celebrated for his ten plus year tenure at a local high school. He’s beloved by his faculty and staff in large part because of his sense of humor. Here’s a little flavor flav of his personality. He’s the guy on the scooter who can’t squat worth beans.

When our new high school grad watched that vid she said, “Our principal could never pull that off.” Few principals could because they’re keenly self conscious, just like people more generally. Most principals continuously worry, what kind of persona am I projecting? Authoritative enough? Professional enough?

Faculty and staff told funny stories all night. There was a moving mixture of laughter and tears. One person said Scott’s greatest talent is being able to switch smoothly from serious to silly and back again. There’s a lot to having and using a sense of humor thoughtfully. I think it’s at least partially learned. Too bad we don’t think, talk, or teach about it.

Day-to-day life is challenging; consequently, pressures continuously build. Humor is an indispensable pressure relief valve. It’s a salve for the super serious and the sad. Or in other words, all of us at times.

Friday night I realized Scott is wonderfully comfortable in his own skin and with those he works. Somehow he’s learned to sidestep the trap of self-consciousness.

I dug the evening because the informal vibe stood in such amazing contrast with my work environment at a university. Sometimes I wonder if PhD stands for Prior humor Disassembled. I challenge you to find a less humorous setting than a typical university faculty meeting. Just brutal. Everyone wondering if they’re coming across as smart enough. Maybe Scott should consult with Deans on how to make their own rap videos.

The other day on my Twitter feed, another reminder of humor’s value compliments of Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia fame. She tweeted, “Walked to my friend’s house to pick up my bike, cycled home, took a bath. Pretty sure I just completed the Portland Triathlon.” Anyone know Carrie? I want to be her friend. Maybe I’ll invite to her a faculty meeting.

Homework Wars

French president Francois Hollande wants to ban homework. Borrowing from Slate:

Hollande suggested the take-home-study prohibition as part of his plan for education reform. The recently elected socialist party leader said “an education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.” He added that the homework ban was a matter of equality, since wealthier children have parental support at home and poor children do not.

When writing previously about teacher-parent relations, I failed to pinpoint homework as a major source of frustration and conflict. Even the GalPal and I, former public school teachers and teacher advocates, get frustrated with the constantly shifting nature of our daughter’s homework. Last year in 11th grade she spent two to four hours on homework nearly every night. This year, in 12th grade, with just a slightly less rigorous courseload, she typically has no homework.

Even though two-thirds of France opposes Hollande’s ban, he’s right that homework complicates equal educational opportunity. In schools that lack academic rigor and parental involvement, teachers start out assigning homework, overtime though, when a majority of students don’t do it, they quit assigning it. Which partly explains the achievement gap.

I’ve also observed in schools in poor communities where teachers sometimes only have one set of textbooks, meaning they can’t leave the classroom. In stark contrast, in the interest of back health and extended learning, a few of my daughters’ teachers checked out two texts per student so they could keep one at home and one in their school locker. So much for equal educational opportunity. And for equal opportunity more generally, the supposed lynchpin of American life.

You’re thinking let’s figure out how to raise the homework floor not lower its ceiling, and of course that makes more sense, but how do we raise the floor if a lot of children don’t have even one adult who knows and cares about whether their homework is completed?

To defuse the growing teacher-parent-homework divide, schools should stop leaving homework decision-making up to every individual teacher to do as they please. That’s what leads to extreme unevenness. Elementary school principals should help grade-level teams decide together on a philosophy of homework. Secondary principals should help academic departments do the same. Then grade-level teams and academic departments should work towards a consensus on a school-wide “Philosophy and Practice of Homework Guide” for parents and students.

And to reduce the number of tearful late nights, it would help if every teacher took time before the end of class to do the first ten percent of so of the assigned homework with students to make sure everyone understands it.

What’s the right amount of homework? The guideline I’ve always liked is ten minutes per night per grade, so an hour a night in sixth grade, and two hours in twelfth. However, parents will adjust to more or less if its purposes are clearly and convincingly communicated and they know what to expect in advance.

The sort of “Philosophy and Practice of Homework Guides” I’m recommending would also help parents make more informed decisions about where to enroll their children. Different guides will resonant with different parents’ educational philosophies.

I suppose there are two other ways to defuse the homework divide. One is to return to the 1970’s of my youth and build a “study hall” into students’ school schedules. Another is to put a proposed ban to a vote of the nation’s students.

What’s the Educative Effect of High School Sports?

If my neighbors read this ESPN Grantland story about the scientist doing most of the brain research on deceased professional football players, boxers, other athletes, and war veterans, would they allow their sons to play football this fall?

Based on what dermatologists know now, my parents shouldn’t have let me play outside all summer without any protection from the sun. Burn. Peel. Repeat. Skin cancer.

Are public high school principals and athletic directors explaining the research findings to student-athelte parents so they can make informed choices about their children’s long-term health? No. Because if schools did think of football as a public safety issue, like absestos riddled buildings, and were on top of the research, they’d have a very hard time justifying fielding football teams at all.

Many citizens, like global warming skeptics who don’t want to change their lifestyles, will refute the research without carefully considering it. Culturally, there’s too much at stake. Exhibit A. This new $60m Texas high school stadium that seats 18,500. Friday Night Lights. Saturday tailgating. Sunday television. Maybe ignorance is bliss.

Most athletic directors are also boosters of sorts so I doubt they’re doing much to educate parents about the known risks of playing football. Principals would probably say they have too much on their plates and have to depend upon their A.D.’s. Hence the silence.

Principals get away with saying they have too much to do to oversee sports because we don’t think of the primary mission of schools—to enhance the life prospects of young people—and the primary mission of football as it’s played by most schools—to outscore the opponent as many times as possible for the sake of school spirit and community pride—as having much to do with one another. Coaches focus on the physical, and wins, losses, league standings, and state titles. Educators focus on students’ intellectual and social growth and future life prospects.

Everyone once in awhile a coach comes along with an educator’s mentality. And sometimes educator coached teams experience on-field success even though they don’t have a win-at-all-cost mindset. They think of their sport as a means towards an end, or ends rather, including the building of character, an insistence on integrity and fair play, and appreciation for teamwork. These coaches are beloved because they have perspective and are far and few between. They think of themselves as educators first, they manage their frustration, and they’re preoccupied with what type of citizens their teen-age athletes will be at age 26 or 36.

Instead of being integral to a school’s mission, high school football is almost always thought of as an add-on. A high status add-on that escapes critical inquiry. Given what we’re learning about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, it’s time that changes.

The newest Texas high school stadium. Deadspin, “It looks like a gorgeous place to watch boys’ lives peak before they’re old enough to vote.”