Teachers in Pennsylvania's Chester Upland School District have agreed to continue working even though the district can no longer afford to pay them, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. Last summer, the state passed massive budget cuts that forced the district to decrease its operating budget by $18 million, according to the Delaware County Daily Times.
The district laid off 40 percent of its professional staff and half of its unionized support staff, states the Inquirer, and in some schools, class sizes now average more than 40 students. The acting superintendent, Levi Wingard, was laid off as well on Dec. 31. In a letter posted on the district's website, Wingard writes:
We now face a very challenging financial crisis. We are currently unable to fund the district's payroll expenses after January 4, 2012. However, I assure you that the members of the school board and the district administration are doing everything possible to identify a solution. We are working cooperatively with the labor unions, the Delaware County Superintendents, the Delaware County Intermediate Unit and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
The unions have appealed to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett for financial aid, reports the Inquirer. However, state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis refused a similar request from Chester Upland's school board last month, saying the board had mismanaged its finances.
District employees passed a resolution last week at a union meeting saying they would continue to work "as long as we are individually able." Sara Ferguson, an elementary teacher who has taught in Chester Upland for 21 years, told the Inquirer, "It's alarming. It's disturbing. But we are adults; we will make a way. The students don't have any contingency plan. They need to be educated, so we intend to be on the job."
States demanding proof public school teachers
By Ben Veldermand
The Louisiana state officials approved a plan to evaluate K-12 classroom teachers based on student performance. This marks a significant rethinking of how a teacher’s performance is assessed.
Louisiana’s outgoing evaluation process gives almost all teachers favorable reviews, which doesn’t jibe with the dismal results produced by the state’s public education system. A 2011 federal report finds only 22 percent of Louisiana’s students perform at “proficient” levels.
Fifty percent of the new evaluation process, which takes effect next school year, will be based on “growth in student achievement,” reports the Associated Press. Louisiana’s educators will be rated as highly effective, effective, or ineffective.
Any teacher rated as ineffective “will be placed in an intensive assistance program and then must be formally evaluated,” reports the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan organization that promotes education reform.
Teachers that continually fail to demonstrate improvement over two years could be fired.
The plan hasn’t taken effect yet, but Louisiana’s teacher unions have condemned the change as “a flawed idea” and a “fiasco” that will create a generation of “demoralized teachers.”
Such union hysterics can also be heard in Oklahoma and Ohio, two other states that will soon switch to teacher evaluation models that incorporate evidence of student learning.
Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma are part of the growing trend toward injecting more accountability into public education. Parents and taxpayers in 23 states have passed laws requiring that teachers be evaluated based – at least partly – on whether or not they are getting the job done in the classroom.
Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, believes several more states could join the list of reformers in 2012.
“I suspect there are some states that are poised to move in (early 2012),” Jacobs told EAG, citing Connecticut, New Mexico, and New Jersey as possible contenders.
“There’s a growing realization that the old way of evaluating teachers is really dysfunctional,” she said. “There was a lot of activity about teacher evaluations in 2011.The states saw that this is not a taboo topic anymore.”
As recently as 2009, only four states linked student learning to a teacher’s performance. Many schools determined a teacher’s effectiveness based on little more than the occasional classroom observation and the level of college degree he or she had.
Union collective bargaining agreements often complicated matters by stipulating rules that made honest assessments of teacher performance difficult, if not impossible.
Some stipulate that classroom observations must be done on schedule, so teachers can be ready to put forward their best effort on that day.
Some contracts say administrators cannot use video equipment to observe teachers without their knowledge, as if it’s somehow unfair to watch a teacher at work, doing what they generally do when they don’t think administrators are watching.
A lot has changed in two years. In addition to D.C. public schools, 17 of the 23 states that link student learning to teacher evaluations do so in a significant way, according to the NCTQ report.
The states that make student achievement a major part of teacher evaluations include: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Tennessee, as well as D.C. public schools.