Sunday’s Courier-Journal article about the latest problems in the Jefferson County Public Schools, “JCPS blasted in what education chief calls ‘academic genocide,’” has to be one of the most inflammatory articles about education that I have seen in the past 20 years.
It’s past time for such reporting to occur. It should wake a lot of people up about what is really happening in JCPS schools.
Some of the most ‘interesting’ comments in this news piece come from Brent McKim, head of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, the local teachers union.
“As president of the union, I know we have been doing everything we can possibly do to support these schools. Everyone in the priority schools is cooperating with the requests from the state.”
Let’s talk about an official report on teachers union collective bargaining agreements from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA), which is on line as Legislative Research Commission’s Research Report #377.
This report shows the union was definitely involved with the restaffing of the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools (PLAs) (Now Called Priority Schools), a process which left a number of the first round of schools with huge numbers of highly inexperienced teachers.
Want to see what the OEA had to say about this?
Just click the “Read more” link.
Starting near the bottom of Page 36 in the OEA report is a section about the restaffing of the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools (PLAs). These were recently renamed “Priority Schools” when Unbridled Learning came along, but they are really the same thing.
Here is what OEA says (I added the underlining):
Staff also analyzed restaffing data for Jefferson County’s six persistently low-achieving schools announced in April 2010: Shawnee High School, Western High School, Valley High School,
Western Middle School, Fern Creek High School, and Frost Middle School. Pursuant to HB 176, the district was provided additional funds to turn around these schools. The district had four turnaround options to select from and chose the restaffing option.1 Review of the teachers hired for those schools found a high number of teacher interns with 0 years of experience hired in Frost Middle School, Valley High School, and Western Middle School. Of the teachers hired for those schools, interns made up a large percentage of hires—47 percent in Frost Middle School and 32 percent in Western Middle School. While the hiring of interns did not violate the statute, it is a concern that schools identified as persistently low achieving, where students need high-quality teachers, hired a substantial number of teachers lacking any experience.
The next section of the report talks about how the union contract only allows limited forced transfers of teachers and that the union would oppose any large scale transfers such as would be required to get experience into the PLAs.
On page 38, the report says:
District Challenges. The underlying challenge in JCPS is implementing a model that attracts and retains highly effective teachers in low-performing schools, some located in remote or low-income parts of the district. Several administrators said better incentives are needed to attract talented teachers to low-performing schools and hard-to-staff schools. For example, some administrators support higher salaries for teachers in hard-to-fill schools, and they favor improved working conditions as potential options to overcome negative perceptions of some schools. In an interview, a JCTA representative said it is “open to discussion” on the issue of differential pay in hard-to-staff schools. However, JCTA steadfastly supports a single salary schedule based on rank, certification, and classroom experience and is opposed to merit pay (Jefferson).
Since the contract basically provides that experienced teachers have to volunteer to transfer, how can you make that happen without merit pay?
The report gets more interesting on Page 40.
In response to the 2010 mandates of HB 176, six JCPS schools were named persistently low achieving and were forced to choose from four turnaround options. In November 2010, another set of low-achieving schools was identified, adding six more Jefferson County schools to the list. JCPS leaders again chose the restaffing option, which requires schools to hire at least 50 percent new staff. While KRS 160.346(10) clearly stipulates that “professionally negotiated contracts by a local board of education shall not take precedence over the requirements” associated with the option selected, JCPS and JCTA entered into an MOA as to how the restaffing would take place.
It sounds like the union did interfere, perhaps in a way inconsistent with the law, and that the superintendent allowed this to happen. Instead of fostering the transfer of experienced educators into the PLAs, the union appears to have stood in the way.
This final gem about House Bill 176 from the 2010 Regular Legislative Session is also worth noting:
Several administrators interviewed in Jefferson County expressed concern about the impact of HB 176. While they consider the bill well intentioned, they said it will likely lead to a shuffling of teachers throughout the district. Teachers deemed to be poor fits in a low-performing school are not released from their contracts. Instead, they are moved to other positions within the district, sometimes to schools that are also struggling.
So, teachers with problems are not let go…they just go elsewhere within the JCPS system, maybe even to another troubled school. How does that help students?
This would not have happened if the schools had been charter schools. Instead of shuffling chairs on the Titanic, Louisville’s kids would finally have had a shot at getting some well-qualified teachers. Instead, we have Kentucky’s chief state school officer charging that Louisville’s schools are committing “academic genocide.” How sad.