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Sunday, November 14, 2010

What 5000 will get you in the DCPS system (rough draft)

I’ll start by saying I think teachers are very underpaid but the following isn’t about that. One of the things the county says it wants to do is get its best teachers at it worse schools. Don’t buy it for a second friends, if that happened the public might finally learn the dirty little secret that its not the teachers that are doing the bad job, it’s the education policy makers which have nearly wrecked education by putting teachers and students in unattainable situations. Don’t believe me? Ever wonder why the school board don’t just move the faculties at Stanton and Paxon two of the best schools in the nation to Ribault and Raines, supposedly two of the worse, according to test scores anyways? Why not they are about the same size? Well I’ll tell you why, it’s because it wouldn’t make a difference. As long as we continue to do things the same way, we will continue to get the same results.

The district however has to at least appear that it is doing something so it created signing bonuses for teachers who agreed to work at our failing and turn around schools. I myself agreed and will pocket 5000 extra dollars a year for the next two schools. In the spirit of full disclosure by the way, I am not one of the best teachers around; one of the teachers the district says it needs to get to its lower performing schools. I do a nice job with instruction, form pretty decent relationships and have solid classroom management, though are more than a few things my admins would say I need to improve on. In the past five years I received needs improvement once, high performing once and satisfactory three times. The years I was high performing and needs improvement seemed very similar to my satisfactory years if you ask me.

No where I like to think I am solid, I am not one of the teachers the experts claim should be working at the school I do but neither are the 20 or so first year teachers all who got the same bonus as I did. A first year teacher at my school makes the same salary as a 13th year teacher at an A school. Furthermore like me and most of the staff, these brand new teachers didn’t come to Ed White to get the bonuses. I know this because the district sprung them on us a week before school began. Though we all agreed to stay for 2 years because they agreed to give us an extra 5k a year. And who wouldn’t, it was like found money. They basically said, Chris here is an extra 5k to o the job you already agreed to do, thank you, I will take it was my reply They offered the money to everyone, from our teacher of the year, to all the first years and sadly to those one or two teachers who are playing out the string.

The staff took their positions at Ed White for a lot of different reasons, to some it was the first job they were offered, where others had a connection to the school, some are former students like me or they lived in the area. I however guarantee between very few and none came to Ed White because they thought they were getting the five thousand dollar bonus, you know the one we didn’t know about till a week before school began. By the way the 5k bonus has not made me a better teacher, the only thing it has improved is my bank account.

That’s a staff of 120 getting 5k each and it made me think, wow, what could we have done with that extra six hundred thousand dollars. What else could it have been spent on?

My school and in fact many schools have gutted their elective programs and it’s not a stretch to think if students like school they will do better in school. Right now so many kids have nothing on their schedules to look forward to. We could have used that money to bring back art, drama and home ec. and if we had another p.e. teacher well maybe those classes wouldn’t have fifty kids each.

We could have added two counselors and two social workers to the staff. Schools only have kids about 15% of the time and for some that’s not enough time to make a meaningful impact and most of the reason kids act up at school or don’t try at school has nothing to do with school. Counselors could try and get to the roots of their problems and social workers could provide wrap around services so kids aren’t just safe and taken care of for I sixth of their lives.

Then we could have hired a support facilitator to make sure fewer of our ESE kids fall through the cracks. I did just a cursory review of our ESE kids grades last year and we had over 30 who were in all regular classes whose GPAs started with zero. They just aren’t falling through the cracks they are being swallowed by the Earth. At my school we have sixteen special education teachers, that’s teachers who have to teach and prepare for their classes too, also in charge of providing special ed services for over 400 children, it would be insulting to impossible things to say that was an impossible task to do well.

Finally we could have hired statician/data entry clerk. Teachers are spending an unfathomable amount of time collecting data. So much that they often don’t have time to collate or interpret the data. It’s also time which would be better spent working with kids.

We could have increased our staff by ten (teachers cost the district about 60 grand each, with salary, benefits etc.) and provided so many services that aren’t being provided now. This could have happened if the district would have taken the money none of us teachers knew we were getting and which didn’t influence our employment decisions at all and used it to give the kids, the services so many desperately need (it would have helped the economy as well by creating ten new/more jobs). Another service not being provided now is putting our supposed best teachers at our supposed worse schools and that’s because the powers-that-be know it won’t make one bit of difference. Instead they have chosen to just go through the motions more content with appearing to do something than doing what is right. Sadly like blaming teachers for the ills of education and allowing so many children fall through the cracks this is a pretty typical problem the district has.

I like my 120 colleagues can use the extra five thousand and what’s more I think we deserve it as well, it’s just I think the kids in our classes deserve a little more too. Let me finish by saying, I think teachers are very underpaid but above wasn’t about that.

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