by Jeff Taylor
One of the first things Peter Gorman is exploring to improve CMS is the ancient idea of “pushing” the best teachers into the worst schools.
Oh, happy day! A hail mary from James Pughsley’s playbook. One that was opposed by 94 percent of the Classroom Teachers Association waaay back in January 2005.
Are we gonna help those teachers update their resumes too? Talk about a solution that is worse than the problem.
Let’s drive the best teachers out of CMS, leaving behind the worst ones the Ed Center refuses to fire. That way no one is truly incompetent if everyone is — or something.
It simply is not true that the most experienced teachers are teaching exclusively at high-performing schools. It is more accurate to say that CMS condones poor teacher performance at certain schools.
This much was evident back in February when we explored the supposed “experience gap” in CMS high schools:
The average teacher experience at the six low-poverty high schools — Myers Park, Providence, South Meck, Hopewell, North Meck, and Butler — is 13.4 years. The average of the other 11 high schools is 11.4 years, not a huge difference.
Moreover, if you toss out the 7.7 year average for teachers at Berry Academy, the newish technology magnet where you very well might want to have teachers with less classroom experience and more hands-on, real-world tech experience, the experience gap shrinks even more, 11.8 vs. 13.4.
Other interesting datums jump out:
- West Charlotte, with roughly twice the poverty rate of Olympic, nonetheless has more experienced teachers, 12.2 years compared to 11.1 for Olympic.
- Despite losing some veteran teachers in recent years to both Butler and Union County schools, Independence and its 42% poverty rate still has the third-most experienced staff in the system. Its 14.4 year average trails only Providence’s 15.9 years and Butler’s 16 years.
- Garinger with a poverty rate over three times that of Myers Park, 65% vs. 20%, has basically the same teacher experience level, 13 years vs. 13.8 years.
It is just hard to find a persistent, meaningful gap in teacher experience in these numbers which can even begin to explain the wide differences in student performance in CMS high schools. This does not mean teacher experience and the harder to define but vital issue of teacher quality does not matter. But it should put to rest the notion that there exists some quick fix in shuffling CMS teachers around. If nothing else, the idea of a CMS mandate forcing some teachers into new schools should be off the table.
Yet Gorman has it on the table. Let’s back up.
If you are going to get rid of, say, 10 percent of your teachers, would you rather get rid of the top 10 percent or the bottom 10 percent? That one is easy — except for CMS. Entire schools have no hard performance standards for teachers or students.
Teachers who should have been fired years ago — not merely bumped into the Ed Center’s employment-for-life program — are still in CMS classrooms. That is where you start to make changes in the CMS culture — you demand competence from the incompetent. You do not punish the manifestly competent.
This issue directly dovetails with the matter of the CMS security office and the Dallas Coopers on staff there. Here you have an entire department that cannot do its job, yet no one in the CMS command structure cares. It is easier to ignore a problem than fix it, so CMS ignores it.
It no doubt would be very painful to fire six, eight, ten-year veteran teachers who have not demonstrated any ability to teach, but the alternative is far worse. CMS has been backed into a corner where it is contemplating driving away some of its best teachers and — do not forget this little wrinkle — shifting its worst teachers, by CMS own accounting, into its best schools.
Now how does CMS think the parents of the kids at those schools are going to react? Will they be happy or upset? Will they be more likely to vote for a $500 million bond package to raise their property taxes or more likely to pick up and move to Union or Lancaster or Cabarrus?
Final note for Peter Gorman — You do understand that there is a reason only six teachers took CMS up on the $10,000 bonus offer: Trust. The CMS Task Force found that two-thirds of teachers do not trust the Ed Center.
Teachers do not trust the Ed Center to actually pay the bonus money. Past bonus programs have seen conflicts between teachers and administration over who earned what. So even what might seem to you to be a straight-forward operation has, in the past, been difficult for CMS to execute.
In sum, ordering the best teachers into the worst schools may just be the beginning of the end of CMS.