Especially in Jefferson County
If you don’t pay them, they won’t come.
Teachers in Jefferson County don’t want to go to some of the school district’s six troubled schools that were recently identified among Kentucky’s 10 Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.
After all, given the school district’s highly restrictive union contract and lack of real incentive pay for teachers who take on more demanding assignments, how can you blame teachers for turning thumbs down on a tough assignment that mostly just offers risks?
However, if you paid them more, they would come.
Some of the Jefferson County’s Persistently Low-Achieving Schools are getting far fewer requests to transfer than they need.
For example, while the very troubled Robert Frost Middle School will lose 19 teachers under SIG process, only three teachers volunteered to transfer in. Things are scarcely better at the Western Middle School, where 21 openings only attracted 8 applications for transfer.
Even more incredible, thanks to the low level of teacher volunteers in certain needed skill areas, Bill Eckels, the Jefferson County Public Schools director of human resources told the newspaper that some of the teachers who were asked to leave the six low-performing schools may wind up in another one of those six struggling schools.
Eckels dubiously claims that isn’t necessarily bad, asserting some of those removed teachers supposedly are experienced and have a track record of doing a good job. Somehow, if that were really true, how is it that those teachers, and not some other teachers, are being removed from their SIG school?
Keep in mind, the audit teams were allowed to choose from a number of different recommendations. It was not necessary to select the option that requires teacher removals. One thus has to conclude that the teachers in the schools where the audits did call for transfers are not generally high performers.
It seems inevitable that teacher shuffling will create disruptions in Louisville’s schools, both in the SIG schools and those other schools where the removed SIG teachers wind up (no one is automatically getting fired, you see) and where transfers into the SIG schools originate.
However, it remains to be seen if this activity will produce the kind of highly experienced staff that the SIG schools will need to be successful.
By the way, there is also an issue of getting teachers with the right skills into the right schools. Bill Eckels says, “We are still very concerned that we will not have enough of the right kind of teachers we need for these schools.”
In other words, even for schools that had more applicants than open positions, there is no guarantee at this point that applicants with the right skills have applied. For example, it won’t help to have a lot of English teachers apply for transfer to a high school if the need is for mathematics and science teachers.
By the way, this isn’t the first time Louisville’s schools failed to get enough experienced and skilled teachers into the district’s most troubled schools. Back in 2008 the Iroquois Middle School and the Southern Leadership Academy performed so poorly that they lost their School Based Decision Making Council authority. The schools were reformed as the Frederick Law Olmstead North and Frederick Law Olmstead South Middle Schools. However, as was disclosed in rather dramatic testimony during the October 2009 meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education, the district could not get enough experienced staff for these reformed schools, either.
So, here’s the bottom line: Without merit pay for teachers, all of the staff shuffling going on in the SIG schools in Louisville isn’t likely to accomplish much for students. Conceivably, it might just make things worse. So long as union contracts with strict seniority rules trump the much more intelligent idea of paying teachers more when they do more in more demanding situations, Louisville and the rest of Kentucky are unlikely to ever see real education change where it counts, in student performance.