from United Teacher: MR. DEASY’S POST-STULL CONFERENCE MEMO
by Warren Fletcher in the President’s Perspective column of United Teacher, the newspaper of UTLA | http://bit.ly/1bF5VSu
Note to UNITED TEACHER readers: As this issue goes to press, the results of the recent membership-wide “Stull of the Superintendent” had just been tabulated and released by UTLA. Unlike the 36,000 working educators of Los Angeles, Mr. Deasy will not have to endure a post-Stull conference. The following is an approximation of what his post-Stull memo could have looked like.
July 19, 2013
From: The Teachers and Health and Human Services Professionals of LAUSD
To: John Deasy, Superintendent
Re: A Data-Driven Review of Your Performance
Mr. Deasy, the purpose of this memo, and of UTLA’s recent superintendent survey, is to give you usable and timely information about your job performance and to help you to improve. As educators, we understand that an effective evaluation is not a “gotcha” activity. So, let’s take a look at what the data tell us about your performance on some of the key objectives of your job:
Objective 1: Ensuring that teachers have a central role in curriculum, instruction, and assessment
In this area, 81 percent of educators who responded gave you a rating of below average or poor, and your average score (on a scale of 1 to 5) was 1.40. These numbers are troubling. Every day, LAUSD teachers must do our jobs in an instructional environment that is characterized by more and more top-down teaching mandates and by immense pressures to reduce our teaching to mere test-prep. While this makes real teaching difficult, the true victims of this approach are our students. It is additionally troubling that, as the Common Core state standards are being implemented across California in the coming year, you and your senior administration are poised, once again, to treat classroom teachers as mechanical “deliverers of content,” rather than as the real professional experts that we are.
Suggestion for improvement: Visit as many classrooms in as many LAUSD schools as you can, but do not come into our classrooms assuming the role of an enforcer or an investigator. We know more than you do about our students’ needs. Listen more. Mandate less.
Objective 2: Ensuring that health and human services and credentialed support staff are prioritized
Your rating: 82 percent below average or poor; average score: 1.29. Again, these numbers raise serious concerns. The past five years of recession have been a time of savage budget cuts throughout the state, and every district in California has seen reductions in these vital services, such as student mental health, nursing, counseling, and librarians. But this superintendent evaluation element is based on whether you have, in the face of those budget challenges, given these vital student services appropriate priority. Again, the evidence is not encouraging. When the School Board recently adopted its “Class Size and Full Staffing Resolution,” you derided that attempt to restore services as a “directive to hire every human being on the West Coast.” Currently, more than 100 permanent counselors remain on the RIF Rehire List while students and schools do without services.
Suggestions for improvement: Bring back all of the permanent health and human services professionals from the RIF Rehire List (and all of the permanent teachers on the list as well), and start using the new dollars from Prop. 30 to fully staff these functions and to bring down the case-loads and ratios of nurses, counselors, and student mental health professionals. And, of course, reopen every school library, staffed by a credentialed teacher librarian.
Objective 3: Ensuring that schools have adequate custodial support (school cleanliness)
Your rating: 85 percent below average or poor; average score: 1.26. During your tenure, state budget cuts—which, it is understood, are outside your control—have resulted in many LAUSD custodial support positions being eliminated. This has meant that schools and classrooms are not regularly cleaned and that students are learning in less sanitary conditions. Unfortunately, your policy decisions and directives have made this situation considerably worse. By choosing to implement the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program in a top-down fashion, with little or no teacher input, you have ensured that a program with the laudable goal of feeding children has, unnecessarily, resulted in significant problems of cleanliness and of lost instructional time at nearly every school where it has been implemented.
Suggestions for improvement: Stop accusing teachers of being somehow anti-child simply because they question how you have implemented BIC. Accept that there is such a thing as constructive criticism. Demonize less. Listen more.
Objective 4: Working to ensure that teachers are fairly evaluated
Your rating: 84 percent below average or poor; average score: 1.29. In December, you signed an agreement with UTLA that met the requirements of the California Superior Court (that CST scores play some role in Stull evaluations) while creating safeguards against abusive practices (such as using AGT data in final evaluations). These were hopeful signs. Unfortunately, almost as soon as the ink was dry on that agreement, you and your senior administration began the unilateral rollout of the so-called Teacher Growth and Development Cycle (TGDC) evaluation model, with no input from rank-and-file classroom teachers. The TGDC is so cumbersome and impractical as an evaluation tool that even AALA, the principals’ union, has called for it to be shelved, or at least suspended.
Suggestions for improvement: Suspend the implementation of the TGDC, and seek the input of teachers (and maybe even from principals) about what a constructive and logical evaluation and observation system looks like. Stop trying to implement the latest fad. Stop experimenting on teachers and students.
Objective 5: Positively influencing the morale of the staff
Your rating: 86 percent below average or poor; average score: 1.22. The results on this objective are striking, and they mirror the results on other survey questions, such as “recognizes teacher effort and respects teacher work” and “creates an environment where teachers can feel free to express their views without fear of retaliation.” Of all of the elements of the survey, this is the one that most clearly and immediately “needs improvement.” Morale among L.A.’s teachers and health and human services professionals was already somewhat battered by the effects of the recession when you arrived as superintendent. But it has been on a distinct downward trajectory since then. The results of the survey, and countless narrative accounts by educators at all grade levels and in all subjects, paint a fairly consistent picture. The 2013 version of LAUSD is a place where the joy of teaching is systematically being replaced by the job of joylessly “delivering content.” It’s also a place where the teacher voice is routinely either demeaned or ignored.
Suggestions for improvement: To borrow the words of two of the survey questions, first, publically and clearly show teachers that you recognize our efforts and you respect our work, and second, take public steps to create an environment where teachers can feel free to express our views without fear of retaliation. Third, address us, teachers and health and human services professionals, like the adult professionals we are, not as if we were wayward children. Scold and lecture less. Respect and encourage more.
While the superintendent will not receive a post-Stull memo like this, the results of the survey have been forwarded to the members of the School Board for their consideration. They are the people who evaluate superintendents, and the data from our members will, I hope, be given its appropriate weight in their deliberations.