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District lets hundreds of QEA teachers down. (rough draft)

Some of the other titles I considered were, District supposed to give teachers bonuses gives them the shaft instead and District tells teachers one thing and delivers another.

One of the teacher’s I spoke with told me their principal apologized to the staff on behalf of the district all but admitting the district had done them wrong.

What was the problem? The QEA bonuses promised to hundreds of teachers working in 36 of our traditionally low performing schools weren’t delivered.

This is the story that I am being told by teacher after teacher. They were told that their scores would be compared to just other schools in the DTO (Duval Transformative Office) not against schools throughout the district. However when it came time to pay out the district changed its tune and is now going to compare these teachers of children who often show up years behind their peers, against the district as a whole.

The District’s justification seems to hang on three letters. MOU.

MOU stands for memorandum of understanding and its agreement that the district negotiated with the union.

Let me stop right there.
Teacher’s looking to transfer to the DTO schools had to jump through some serious hoops.
1) Teachers were  approached via email in  like febish maybe march 2014 based on the previous year's test scores so that would have been 12/13 scores...highly effective 
2) once you turned in your transfer papers and showed you were interested in the dto schools an observation occurred.
3) Teachers were then interviewed by a panel, including a dtu rep.
4) once those three pieces were looked at you were deemed: highly qualified, qualified or unqualified.

Then it’s amazing that after all that there was practically zero interaction between the district staff and the DTO teachers. Practically all interaction and I am told there wasn’t much after teachers signed on the dotted line occurred by e-mail, very little face to face contact actually occurred. When the superintendent announced he planned to give tens of millions of dollars to some of our best teachers to either stay at or go to the DTO schools, I imagined him or a highly select staff following up with and making sure they were being successful but sadly it turns out the process turned out to be little more than a clearinghouse sweepstakes style email which said, you may be a winner.       

Then when teachers at the DTO schools were being recruited to stay several have said they were given the hard sell to quickly sign on the dotted line. Being at a used car lot with an overly aggressive salesman came to mind as I listened to these teachers stories. Sign now and we’ll figure the rest out later seemed to be the sentiment.

Okay back to the MOU

This is from the contract teacher’s were to sign.
Performance Criteria
Performance Amount
VAM or Growth Score exceeds the silo average by 25%
100% of
Retention/Recruitment incentive
VAM or Growth Score exceeds the silo average by 11-24%
50% of
Retention/Recruitment incentive
VAM or Growth Score exceeds the silo average by 1-10%
25% of
Retention/Recruitment incentive

This is from the MOU
Performance Criteria
Performance Amount
VAM or Growth Score exceeds the district silo average by 25%
100% of the Retention/Recruitment Incentive
VAM or Growth Score exceeds the district silo average by 11-24%
50% of the Retention/Recruitment Incentive
VAM or Growth Score exceeds the district silo average by 1-10%
25% of the Retention/Recruitment Incentive

Notice the change, what teachers were sent says silo average, the MOU however says district average.

Why the change?

Now do I think the district baited and switched a bunch of teachers? Where I wouldn’t put it past them the truth is no, I think this colossal foul up was the result of a series of communication glitches and if you have been in the district for longer than a cup of coffee you know information being passed around or getting to the right person has had its difficulties.

In fact one veteran teacher in her second year of the QEA who has received the top bonus each year told me she has received no follow up from the district, no check in to see how they were doing, no kudos to you message, nothing.

Now maybe the district all along had intended to compare student scores in the DTO schools to the district average, an almost impossible standard if you ask me but the teachers I am talking to universally have said that’s not the case and furthermore this caught more than a few principals flat footed too as they thought their teachers would be compared to DTO schools as well only and thus get the bonuses.

Maybe you can shrug your shoulders if a couple teachers say they were told one thing, I am sure some people would chalk it up to sour grapes, but not when principals also believe the same thing.

That being said, there may be a reason that the district did indeed change course in mid-stream and that’s because they bit off more than they could chew.

This is from an October 6th article in the Times Union:

The QEA fund pays up to $17,000 to recruit and up to $20,000 to retain high performing teachers to the schools.
For instance, this year 834 Duval County teachers were considered high-quality and so eligible for the incentive payments if they chose to work in transformation schools. Although they all were invited, only 41 expressed an interest and eight ultimately transferred into the school, she said.
Last year 38 teachers were recruited to the schools and received the $17,000 and 92 teachers were retained and received $20,000. After release of additional testing data, 46 more teachers received the extra pay.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when 273 teachers were first told they were getting the bonus and then were later told they weren’t.
From WJCT
The bonuses were for high-performing teachers at low-performing schools, funded through the Quality Education for All initiative, according to school officials.
Teachers get paid extra depending on how much improvement their students showed based on the value-added model or student-growth score. On Thursday 273 teachers were told they’d receive the bonus based on scores above the district average, from 1 to 10 percent, but were later told their scores didn't meet the minimum performance threshold.

I don’t want to seem like a math major but 273 seems like a lot more than 176 (the Times Unions total of QEA teachers). According to these numbers this year nobody should have received a bonus.
Except at least some teachers did. Apparently the district has been on a recruiting spree, even trying to sign up teachers brand new to the district not the veterans the program originally promised. One person told me there were now 700 teachers in the QEA a nearly 400 percent increase from the first year.
Did the district go on a recruiting spree and then go, hmm how are we going to pay for all this, I know, we better change what silos we are comparing the scores too?
The truth is I don’t know and that is partly because the district won’t answer any of my questions.
I have asked how many QEA teachers there are and how many got the bonuses and at what percentage, fairly straight forward and you would think easy to answer questions but the district thus far has remained silent. 
The district has been squirrely in another way too. When 273 teachers are told they are going to be paid one day and then a few days later the district says, opps, teachers are going to have questions. So this is what the district did. On Friday afternoon they sent out an email for a Monday afternoon meeting. Not the next Monday so they could make sure teachers had a chance to see the email and make plans to come but the very next Monday.
When the district does stuff like that they are trying to bury the problem. They don’t really want to answer questions and I am told at the meeting the few people that were able to attend didn’t get their questions answered.
Sonnita Young kept saying VAM scores as a catch all, even though k-2 teachers use student growth scores and third grade teachers kids are measured by their proficiency. Furthermore this year’s VAM scores haven’t come out yet. Now they could have used last year’s VAM scores but what do VAM scores have to do with the district silos and if your brain is spinning you know how the teachers who were at the meeting felt as none of their questions received anything approaching a satisfying answer. Nobody left the meeting thinking, oh I get it, it was a simple mistake if anything they felt more betrayed, more let down, and more upset.
I hope you are sitting friends as it gets even more confusing. The union told me that this year’s bonuses were based on last year’s 15-16 FSA tests (I guess except for all those subjects that weren’t covered by it) scores.
You know last year’s FSA test which was universally dismissed as being unreliable and had more issues than Time magazine, you know the same test that was so panned that the school board said it would hold people harmless based on the scores it generated. I mean unless you are a QEA teacher then for hundreds of you it cost you thousands of dollars.
Then what about teachers who are in the first year of the QEA this year and yes now there are some teachers in their first year and second (and yes we should all be wondering who is going to pay when year 4 rolls around and the QEA funds run out), did they get paid for just signing up or were they paid based on the 14-15 school year scores?
Then once again I can’t make the numbers work. In year one there were 176 QEA teachers and now in year two there are nearly 700 of which 273, more than the original class held, who didn't get the bonus. Only second year QEA teachers should have been ineligible for the bonus right, but as you can see more people didn’t get it than who were in the program in year one? Um what?!?
Whether by hook (accident/lack of communication) or crook (on purpose/they bit off more than they can chew or are making things up as they go along) the district has let hundreds of teachers down and that’s not good for their schools or the children they teach and it further undermines the district’s credibility.  We have to do better than this.

Two last things, this is a developing story, I hope to talk to several more teachers about their experience with the QEA.

And the district finally got back to me, they said they would have me something by Thursday, if what they get me clears up any of the questions above, I will let you know.

3 comments:

  1. so much for throwing $$ at the problem

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  2. Terrie Brady spoke about this at the last school board meeting. Request the archived recording if it's not already up for viewing. She was quite upset about the whole thing. It's a mess.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It takes many months before the minutes can be viewed. And it's about time she spoke.

    ReplyDelete