From the associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA – “The Principals Union”) UPDATE | Week of December 3, 2012
29 November 2012 :: AALA thanks Gary Garcia, President of the Senior High School Principals’ Organization, for sharing this letter.
Dear Dr. Aquino:
Thank you for taking time out of your previously set schedule to meet with high school principals on Wednesday. The main topic of our discussion will be the various District initiatives that involve professional development.
- Teaching and Learning Framework
- English Language Learner Master Plan
- Common Core Standards
In general, the concerns that principals in middle, secondary span and high schools from all parts of the District have shared with me apply to all three sets of the aforementioned professional development modules:
- Modules have a bias toward the type of PD that is appropriate for elementary school faculties, not secondary.
- The sheer number of PD modules that we are to provide to our staffs ignores the equally important mandate that all high schools also conduct WASC Self-Studies. This process usually takes a full year of meetings (at least 3 a month). Each school year, approximately 40% of high schools are preparing for either full or midterm visits from WASC teams.
- The PD activities are designed for smaller groups of teachers than exist at most secondary schools.
- The videos that are part of the PD modules seldom, if ever, have representatives from high schools.
- The EL PD spends too much time teaching/informing teachers about how to counsel or program EL students into the various future program options they will have in 2013-2014. Secondary teachers at large schools do not program students or give advice to parents about program placement.
- Because the PD modules are not suitable to deliver directly to high school faculties, administrators must spend valuable time revising the modules.
- The school year started before the modules were completed. Due dates for when the modules should be delivered to teachers have changed repeatedly this semester. This makes school-site administrators look disorganized in the eyes of our staffs.
The concerns about the modules are exacerbated by an overall lack of resources that have been provided to school sites. The fact that we do not have enough custodians, counselors, clerks, teachers (class sizes in the 40s in many high schools), etc., makes full implementation of the myriad district mandates almost impossible. With the haphazard way the modules were rolled out this semester, many principals are wary of what we may see in the spring.
Statements from high school principals – copied verbatim
1. I would like to hear Jaime's response to this idea:
We can do a few things well or we can do many things poorly. We are not resourced to do many things well. We would rather do a few things well than do many things poorly. Currently, we are doing too many things poorly.
Why do we need three accountability systems? (Performance Meter If we are such good businessmen, why do we have pool teachers who earn full salaries wandering around the District? A prudent business model would be to assign these fully paid teachers to schools for the year so the school could include them in the master and lower class sizes.
Would he support a slower implementation timeline of common core [that is] balanced until such time that the resources to do it well and properly (on computers, not on paper) are made available, or would he support the current insanity that says full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes? I am weary of partial poor implementation of initiatives due to resource starvation, and I am sick of the injustice of holding hard working people accountable when there has been no accountability for those who have caused our current resource starvation policies, many of them self-imposed (Office of Civil Rights, Performance Meter, EGDC [the worst thing I have ever been exposed to in this profession], etc.).
2. My biggest concern is time. I understand the rationale for both the new evaluation system and the multiple PD initiatives. If we had a more expeditious system of entering data from our classroom visits, the new system would be more do-able. Even if you are fast with the technology, and I’m pretty good, the time it takes to categorize the script we took from the visit makes the process very difficult to manage. Maybe a tool which has categories already embedded and voice recognition software to enter the script/data. I’m thinking big, but I think this is the only way it can work. Like Siri goes to the classroom and helps administrators with teacher evals….
Along the same lines, the PD Modules are simply too many to adequately cover in 7-14 PD days. We were told that ½ of our days would go to District initiatives. If we had weekly PD, as in some schools, this would be more do-able. But we only have the 14 [days]. Realize that inside of our PD, we really do need to do other school-based training. We are having a full WASC visit in February. This takes time. We are developing the seeds of PLCs in our departments, looking at assessments, student results, and instruction. This takes time. We are continuing to offer PD by SLC and magnets including project-based learning/linked learning and other types of integrated instruction. We are also looking at My Data and other technology training. This also takes time. There is not enough of it. Even if we voted to hold weekly PD, our teachers would expect much of that time to be for PLC-type work, not most of it going to District initiatives.
3. I, too, am concerned about the short timeline to facilitate all these modules. If we are asking our teachers to use researched-based, successful strategies to address quality and rigor and to "go deeper," with our students, we need to model these strategies during our faculty PD while facilitating our teachers to raise awareness and understanding of the modules and their implementation. I am working on integrating these modules with what we are already doing well at our school so my teachers and staff do not feel as if the District is yet adding more to an overflowing plate. There is a way to do this integration right, but it's very difficult when the timeline is so set that there is no flexibility to meet each school's needs. I agree that we need to become more consistent across the District in how all school faculties and staffs are meeting the learning needs of our students, and I am benefiting from what we are learning in our principals' network in my ESC, but I would also ask that the input of school administrators be heard and considered as the District moves forward with its various implementations since we are the ones who have to figure out how to truly implement these initiatives in a manner that leads to student (and faculty) success at our school sites.
One question: Are there experienced high school APSCSs serving as part of the District-level discussion regarding the implementation of the more recent A-G diploma requirements as well as the various levels of intervention for at-risk students (for example for math)? The high school APSCSs can be valuable in looking at how these requirements impact the master schedule as well as in proposing positive solutions that could help all high schools. Just a thought.
4. Problems with the EL Master Plan book:
The writers of the book provide little differentiation for their widely varied audience. Instructions for some of the suggested strategies are directed toward all teachers, but many are unrealistic for high school subject matter teachers. (Example: Is a chemistry teacher or an art teacher supposed to learn and then teach contrastive grammatical analysis to SELs?) Further, the sample curriculum in Appendix C is primarily elementary school based (grades 2-5). Where is the material for high school teachers of various disciplines?
Some definitions/explanations of terms describing student background are presented as absolute, but the connotations carry multiple and often erroneously stereotyped implications. Case in point: The various definitions of SEL mix the “what” of the term with the “why,” suggesting, for example, students using vernacular English in certain situations learn this at home, the book defining SEL as “home language.”
Problem with Common Core Standards Initiative:
Using the term “instructional shifts” when referring to (a) teaching complex texts and (b) providing reading and writing grounded in evidence from the text, suggests that competent high school English teachers have not been doing that all along. That is an insult to high school teachers of English. That is how textual analysis—both reading and writing—is taught—whether it be based on literature or informational texts. Some recognition that this is not entirely new to everyone would help.
NOTE: Dr. Aquino verbally responded to these questions at the November 28 SHSPO meeting. We have asked him to provide a written response which will be published in the next issue of Update, if it is available. The Senior High School Principals’ Organization also sent a letter regarding facilities to Roger Finstad, Maintenance and Operations Director, which will be published next week.
A CONCERN FROM A UNIT J MEMBER
AALA thanks Claire Ealy, Senior Technical Project Manager, ITD, for raising this issue.
Regarding the article: “RESTORATION OF THE FULL SCHOOL YEAR AND FURLOUGH DAYS - NOW WHAT?” I absolutely agree with your comments about funding, creative thinking and making every effort to help schools. But again, please think about the classified staff members who have also been negatively impacted by the budget cuts. Specifically, I am referring to basis changes.
Many staff were changed from A Basis and I have not heard any discussion about bringing that back. Once a cut has been made, it’s easy to forget the staff who were impacted, unless they speak up or have their union speak up for them. ITD used project managers as sacrificial lambs when the budget got tight a couple of years ago. Now we’re in our third year of B Basis (on top of all the furloughs during that time). These managers supervise staff who are A Basis as well as highly paid full-time contractors. Some, but not all, staff are able to get Z time but many managers scrutinize Z time requests and make the staff go find another unit to fund it. That is demeaning and demoralizing.
I brought this up in Ron Chandler’s All Hands meeting last week and afterwards my immediate supervisor suggested I bring it up with AALA. I shouldn’t have to go to AALA – the management should do the right thing and advocate for us. But maybe it does take the power of the union to mediate these inequities.
Can you help restore A Basis for Classified staff?
All AALA members may not be aware, but Unit J includes ITD project managers who work on projects that are requested and paid for by other divisions in the District. Some divisions, or large projects, have sufficient funding to pay for Z time; however, many project managers work on multiple smaller projects for various units that may not have any, or very little, funding. In addition, most project managers are responsible for employees who are on A Basis and therefore, working without supervision a portion of the year. Needless to say, the reduction to B Basis did not change the workload; project managers, like school administrators, are expected to accomplish the same amount of work in less time. AALA remains committed to improving the working conditions of its members and, therefore, urges the Superintendent and Board, as they develop budget priorities, to return all of our members, classified and certificated, to their previous bases.