Tribe Joins Discommendation of Unconditional Tenure by Progressives

August 14, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Lawrence Tribe has joined the NY tenure reform lawsuit, just more evidence of:


FEA: We Love Late Amendments to Omnibus K-12 Bills! No We HATE THEM, Oh, what are WE DOING?!?!?

August 7, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So the Florida legislature adopted an $18.4 million dollar ESA program for children with severe disabilities as a late amendment to an omnibus education bill. The Florida Education Association has filed suit against the state, loudly trumpeting its desire to defend due process, the rule of law and the American way.

Joanne McCall, the Vice President of the Florida Education Association wrote the following in a newspaper column titled Lawsuit tackles Legislature’s ‘backdoor’ way of passing bills:

We’re all taught to play by the rules. In a civil society, we rely on rules and procedures and laws as we go about our daily routine. When people break the rules, they’re expected to be held accountable for their actions — whether it’s within your family, on the job or at school, or in our society as a whole. The Legislature is no exception. There are rules and procedures in the Florida Constitution, in Florida statutes and in the House and Senate chambers that set out the right way to do things — such as pass a law.

I have yet to read Rules for Radicals but I gather that it recommends a rather cut-throat ends-justify-the-means casual attitude about the truth. Practitioners should have learned from the Dan Rather implosion over “fake but accurate” however that it is awfully easy for people to check up on things these days, and thus a rather simple matter to unmask shallow, self-serving hypocrisy. Someone may want to write a Saul Alinsky for Dummies updated for the internet age, it might lead to a more honest debate and avoid needless bumbling.

Take the Florida Education Association’s current antics for example. Jon East over at RedefinED for instance found that the Florida Education Association supported a $480,000,000 teacher pay raise through almost an identical legislative process a mere two sessions ago: late amendment attached to an omnibus education bill. It does not take an overly active imagination to think that this is probably not the first such incident employed by the FEA, simply the most recent.

The Florida Education Association was strangely silent concerning procedural preferences when the last-minute amendment to an omnibus education bill netted a $480,000,000 teacher pay raise.

In fact, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford praised Governor Rick Scott for getting ‘er done:

Ford said, “FEA thanks Governor Scott for his efforts to provide an immediate across-the-board pay increase to Florida’s classroom teachers in recognition of their demonstrated performance which has brought Florida’s education system to sixth in the nation.  FEA applauds the infusion of additional resources into public education as was proposed by the Governor.

Ford could have objected to the procedure used to get this teacher pay raise, and even could have filed suit to stop it. Instead he thanked Governor Scott for pulling it off and groused over some of the details of the funding. One year later a remarkably similar legislative procedure creates a $18.4 million program for children with severe disabilities, and the FEA sends their Vice President out into the papers to wax poetic about legislative process:

These laws failed to pass the right way. They went through the legislative process and didn’t get enough votes to be enacted. So legislative leaders came up with a way to circumvent the rules. This was a backdoor way for legislative leaders to enact measures that had already failed. We all have to be accountable for our actions, even the leaders of the Florida Legislature.

So the $480,000,000 question for the FEA: are you willing to give up the half a billion pay increase and everything else that you have passed over the years through late amendments to omnibus education bills to quash an $18.4 million program for children with severe disabilities?


The No-Stats All Star Retires

June 18, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Shane Battier, the man dubbed by Michael Lewis as the No-Stats All Star- has announced his retirement from the NBA at age 35 to take a college basketball analyst position with ESPN.  Battier never looked like much on the stat-sheet but when the statisticians got around to crunching the NBA they discovered that all he does is little things-like help his team win basketball games.  Battier-type “White Space” employees raise important questions about how to approach employee evaluation including teachers.

John White and I spoke on a panel together a few years ago and the topic of evaluation came up.  I sounded a note of caution but Superintendent White saw my bet and raised me by opining that we were in danger of making a fetish out of value added scores and that ultimately we should rely upon the professional judgement of administrators informed by data rather than merely the data itself. At least that is how I interpreted what White said, and if so, I agree with him.

Greg has been saying all along that ultimately this system requires choice.  Give parents meaningful choice, let Principals hire their own teams, have Superintendents evaluate Principals on the basis of the health of their school.  This strikes me as not only as the best way to do teacher eval, but also the only way to create a system to recognize the value of woefully under-appreciated highly effective instructors.  To choose another sports analogy developed by Michael Lewis, the pay of Left-Tackles took off after the advent of free-agency in the NFL.  Once a true market for players had been established, guys who had the skills to block a Lawrence Taylor found themselves in high demand, whereas the old system kept their compensation under wraps.

There are only a few states where we might be inching towards meaningful levels of parental choice, probably fewer still if any where the school leader has anything approaching a free hand to choose their own team. Mechanistic programs that attempt to identify and reward and remove instructors will be better than a unconditional tenure and dance of the lemons system but will never match a system in which trained professionals with healthy incentives exercise professional discretion. The Heat for instance hired Battier because they understood that there is a great deal more going on than the stat sheet, and won a couple of championships.

The primordial soup is slowwwwly starting to bubble…

Now imagine a burnt out and disgruntled Charles Barkley riding the bench of the Heat as a player in 2014 drawing a bigger salary than LeBron because the coaches can’t make best use of their salary cap…


Vergara vs. California

June 10, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Read the decision here.  I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on tv, so I will leave the legal analysis to others.  Two things seem obvious: an appeal of this decision is inevitable, and second this type of lawsuit will be emulated in other states- many other states.  The conclusion of this will doubtlessly take years to reach but this may prove to be a decisive turning point on teacher quality issues.  If it proves decisive it will be more like Midway than Waterloo, but reading through the decision gives you the feeling of a decisive turning point having been reached.

Reading through the decision also reveals just how deeply discredited practices like unconditional tenure and LIFO have become. The limits to the National Education Association’s attempt to muddy the water on research through “rent-a-reactionary critiques” of the groundbreaking research on teacher impacts seem completely exposed as well. It is much harder to pull the wool over the eyes of a discerning judge than an education reporter on deadline.

The courts often prove to be a lagging indicator in the war of ideas.  This war is far from over but congratulations to the team who fought this battle.


What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Rawls and Understanding Update on RedefinED

November 11, 2013

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I updated the “forced reincarnation with the chance to pick your state” thought experiment with NAEP 2013 data over at RedefinED.

Bonus Elvis C:


Chicago: 1,756 teacher layoffs in two months

July 19, 2013

(Guest Post by Collin Hitt)

Chicago Public Schools announced layoffs yesterday of more than 2,000 employees. From the Chicago Tribune:

About half of the 1,036 teachers being let go are tenured. The latest layoffs, which also include 1,077 school staff members, are in addition to 855 employees — including 420 teachers — who were laid off last month as a result of the district’s decision to close 49 elementary schools and a high school program.

Yesterday was a rough day in Chicago. City government is heading into a financial tailspin. The city’s bond rating received a triple-downgrade from Moody’s. The district’s finances aren’t any better. It will be impossible for the district or the city to borrow enough money to patch their budgets. And with every other taxing entity in Chicago running in the red, the ability of CPS to hike taxes will be limited.

The district is blaming the layoffs on its ongoing pension funding crisis. As the Illinois Policy Institute was pointing out two years ago, the district’s retirement costs were set to quadruple to more than $800 million between 2012 and 2014..

Benefit reforms could have softened this blow. Look at Milwaukee schools, the subject of a recent Fordham Foundation report by my colleague Bob Costrell and Larry Maloney. The district was able to dramatically lower its retirement costs thanks to reforms spearheaded by Scott Walker, who is despised in Illinois Democratic circles. From the Wisconsin Reporter:

Instead of retiree costs rising by $1,652 per pupil, to a total of $3,512 per student, Costrell and Maloney now project an increase of $64 per pupil, to a total of $1,924 per student.”

That works out to about $110 million annually in savings, or about 10 percent of MPS’s current budget.

And the study projects Act 10, loathed by public-sector unions, will save more than 1,000 jobs, or about 25 percent of MPS teaching positions, by the year 2020.

The Chicago Teachers Union has successfully fought to leave benefits unchanged. The most recent collective bargaining agreement in Chicago, settled after a weeklong strike, gave generous raises and made no major changes to benefit costs. It was a financial suicide pact. Had the district won flexibility to reduce pay or benefits in the face of cash shortfalls, many of yesterday’s laid-off teachers would still have their jobs.

The layoffs in Chicago are going to be painful for a lot of good people. But, as Jay pointed out last fall after the CTU strike, this day was predictable. And this mass round of layoffs may usher in Chicago’s iteration of “real” merit pay:

When Chicago closes a traditional public school for low enrollment the teachers are laid off.  The new contract appears to place some limits on this, but the practice has generally been preserved.  In addition, unlike in some other big cities, principals in Chicago are free to hire teachers as they see fit and are not forced to take teachers laid off from school closures.  The new contract does require that half of all newly hired teachers come from those laid off and guarantees re-hiring only for the highest rated teachers, but according to the city’s summary of the agreement: “Principals maintain full authority to hire whichever teacher they deem best.”

The net effect of growing charter schools, closing under-enrolled traditional public schools, and only hiring back the best and most desired teachers from those schools is a true merit pay system.  Bad teachers are let go.  Good teachers not only get their job back, but they also get an extremely generous pay raise over the next four years for staying and being good.  That’s real merit pay.


Scandal! Big Education Conference Subordinates Education to PROFIT!

May 22, 2013

money-greedy1

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Kudos to ALELR for this shocking expose – a major education conference is trying to destroy our schools by subordinating education to greedy profiteering BUSINESSES!


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