Libby’s Board of Education Blog:
I conducted a (very) informal poll last night on Facebook–out of curiosity I asked my friends how often their teachers used Infinite Campus. The results didn’t shock me-most respondents answered either “half” or “some” of their teachers updated their gradebook regularly. Personally, “half” accurately describes my teachers. For some classes, I consistently know what grade I’m getting because the teachers add assignments often. However, many classes aren’t updated regularly, making it hard for me to know what assignments I’m missing and how to prioritize my time.
Infinite Campus is a six-year old program that the district has continuously struggled to implement. It’s in every school and every teacher has access, but the system isn’t always user friendly for teachers and staff inputting data. I’m pretty sure teachers don’t update because of the clunky interface. In fact, tonight’s Board Meeting confronted an issue with Infinite Campus: not everyone uses it.
Ed Hughes got mad tonight. After a string of public appearances condemning IC, disappointing news that the Infinite Campus developers weren’t flexible about changing and a suggestion that we abandon the Infinite Campus system entirely, Mr. Hughes practically shouted that “we should either require all teachers to be compliant or get some direction from the administration on what we need to change.”
Much more on the Madison School District’s Infinite Campus experience, here.
Libby mentioned “developers weren’t flexible about changing”… There may well be opportunities for improvement. But, Infinite Campus has a large installed base. Why is it working in other Districts, and not Madison? My 18 years in the software business informs me that leadership is critical to successful implementation. It also means that such systems must be mandated. Waiting six years is a disaster, financially and from a credibility perspective.
Nearby Districts such as Verona have managed to implement student information systems. Why can’t Madison? Time to pull the plug if the Administration can’t make it happen.
The fourth-grader, his dark hair cropped close, has been staring at a computer screen for close to 20 minutes, trying again and again to solve a devilish little puzzle built around rectangles’ axes of symmetry.
Two friends appear, offering unsolicited advice and urging him to try their solutions. Nothing works, and their teacher, who could offer help, is nowhere in sight.
“This one’s hard,” classmate Brian Aguilera says. Zepeda keeps trying. Finally, after 15 minutes’ more work, he cracks the puzzle. His reward: another, harder puzzle.
Another morning in Learning Lab at Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy, a 3-year-old charter school built on a sliver of city-owned land in the shadow of the I-680 off-ramp. Si Se Puede — Spanish for “Yes It’s Possible” or “Yes We Can” — is part of a tiny chain of schools set to expand nationwide.
Rocketship will be opening in Milwaukee during the fall of 2013.
[Atlantic Editor: High school athletes are the pride of their communities. But if we want to inspire kids to write well, we should be putting the exemplary work of our best young high school scholars on display.]
As the editor of The Concord Review, I have been glad to publish more than 1,000 exemplary high school history research papers by students from 46 states and 38 other countries since 1987. Yet I have long been aware that little “personal” essays have killed off academic expository writing in most of our schools.
For generations, American children in our schools have had their writing limited to short pieces about themselves, from primary school up through their “college essays” (those little 500-word “personal” narratives). As long as English teachers have borne all the responsibility for reading and writing in the schools, the reading has been fiction, the writing personal and “creative.” Lately a genre has emerged called “creative nonfiction,” but that turns out to be just more solipsistic autobiography.
Most of our students never read a single history book and they very rarely write a serious term paper before graduating from high school. They learn to write without learning anything beyond their own feelings and the events of their present lives, and their teachers are able to grade that work without knowing much either.
Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, put it very well in August this year: “The single biggest complaint from college teachers and employers is that high school graduates cannot write as well as they need to.” As a result, the member companies of the Business Roundtable have been saddled with a $3 billion bill for remedial writing courses every year, not only for their hourly hires but for their current and new salaried employees.
There are a few exceptions, of course. For decades, the International Baccalaureate has required a 4,000 (16-page) Extended Essay for the Diploma, and thousands of American students have done that. Even the College Board has begun to think of a small pilot program on term papers as well.
The New Common Core standards, a set of reforms that will soon be applied by most states, talk about nonfiction reading, but that category seems to include more memos, short speeches, brochures, and technical articles than anything like a complete history book. The standards also mention something about nonfiction writing, but all of the examples in the Appendix seem to be only more two-page efforts that will far from challenge the capability of our students in academic writing.
By publishing Peg Tyre’s story “The Writing Revolution,” The Atlantic is doing a great service for our students who need to learn to do some serious academic expository writing while they are still in high school. However, I would add that students also benefit from seeing exemplary expository essays written by their peers.
At The Concord Review, I’ve seen many examples of first-rate academic writing on historical topics. Students are startled, challenged, and inspired when they see this kind of work by people their own age. “When I first came across The Concord Review, I was extremely impressed by the quality of writing and the breadth of historical topics covered by the essays in it,” one New Jersey public school girl wrote to me. “The chance to delve further into a historical topic was an incredible experience for me, and the honor of being published is by far the greatest I have ever received. This coming autumn, I will be starting at Oxford University, where I will be concentrating in Modern History.”
It may be objected that this is a letter from a good student. Where are the letters from struggling students? I would respond that in sports, we are quite happy to present other students with the very best public performances of their most athletic peers. But when it comes to academics, we seem afraid to show students the exemplary work of their peers, for fear of driving them away. This dichotomy has always seemed strange to me.
Of course we must pay attention to our least able students, just as we must pay attention to the those who have the most difficulty in our gym classes. But it would’t hurt, in my view, to dare to recognize and distribute some of our students’ best academic work, in the hopes that it may challenge many others of them to put in a little more effort. Surely that is worth a try.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Lorie Raihala, via a kind email:
At the recent WATG conference in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Dr. Scott Peters from the UW Whitewater gave a presentation on “Data-Based Curriculum for RtI Implementation (Including Gifted Ed).” Dr. Peters spends a lot of time analyzing data. One thing he has discovered is just how wide the “excellence gaps” are in Madison. Take a look at this website, where you can view the breakdown of “advanced” WKCE scores for specific MMSD schools according to race/ethnicity and economic status: WINNS. You can also change variables to compare results by subject over the past several years.
For Dr. Peters’s “Data-Based Curriculum” presentation, he gave audience members sample MAP score reports for a sixth grade classroom, along with a sheet of sample MAP questions that showed what students at the various score levels can be expected to do. The range in “Reading” scores extended from the 1st to the 90th percentile, with all points between. This range in reading levels represents the difference between, for instance, this question:
Which is a toy?
and this question:
Read the passage.
Our database of more than 3,000 articles of documented investigations is an easy-to-use tool for scientific research. Users may look for a general topic or narrow their search through the use of three topic code parameters…[passage continues, and then there’s a chart].
How does the chart complement the text?
1. It summarizes the text.
2. It provides detail not in the text.
3. It serves to contrast information in the text.
4. It provides transition between the two parts of the text.
Can you imagine having to stretch this far to reach students in your classroom? Dr. Peters’s concluding recommendation was for schools to use assessment data to compose classrooms that would limit the range each teacher must stretch in order to reach most students.
* The “WINNS” information is based on the oft-criticized, weak WKCE.
Richard Sandar & Stuart Taylor, Jr.:
Jareau Hall breezed through high school in Syracuse, N.Y. Graduating in the top 20% of his class, he had been class president and a successful athlete, and he sang in gospel choir. He was actively recruited by Colgate University in rural New York, one of the nation’s top liberal-arts colleges.
None of Colgate’s recruiters mentioned to Mr. Hall that his combined math and verbal SAT scores were some 250 points below the class median–let alone that this would put him at great risk of academic difficulty.
Arriving at Colgate in 2002, he quickly found himself struggling in class, with far more rigorous coursework than he had ever faced. “Nobody told me what would be expected of me beforehand,” recalls Mr. Hall, now 28. “I really didn’t know what I was getting into. And it all made me feel as if I wasn’t smart enough.”
The Madison School District (PDF):
In the spring of 2012 data was collected indicating a wide array of teacher grade book usage on Infinite Campus. Following the distribution of the letter on August 27, 2012 a number of concerns were brought forth regarding the use of grade book. Music and Physical Education teachers at the middle school level have larger class sizes and teach on an alternate day rotation in many cases. Currently, members of Curriculum and Assessment are working with Music and Physical Education teachers to develop a set of guidelines that are practical due to their schedules.
Following the end of the first quarter, November 7, we will gather data and measure the use of teacher grade book. The Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools will share the data with building principals to address areas of concern.
Across our middle and high schools, a number of you have utilized the Infinite Campus grade book.
Parents,guardians and other youth service providers appreciate the information regarding student progress. This year, the MMSD opened an online student enrollment option for families. The feedback is clear, a high percentage of MMSD families utilize Infinite Campus. The Research and Evaluation Department has analyzed the number of Infinite Campus grade book entries in all of our schools and it is evident to me that we have yet to reach our full implementation by having all teachers using the Infinite Campus grade book and consistently updating student progress. Therefore, it is my expectation that all teachers follow the below guidelines as we enter the 12-13 school year.
Infinite Campus (million$ have been spent) usage issues continue…
A few links:
Thomas H. Davenport and D.J. Patil:
When Jonathan Goldman arrived for work in June 2006 at LinkedIn, the business networking site, the place still felt like a start-up. The company had just under 8 million accounts, and the number was growing quickly as existing members invited their friends and colleagues to join. But users weren’t seeking out connections with the people who were already on the site at the rate executives had expected. Something was apparently missing in the social experience. As one LinkedIn manager put it, “It was like arriving at a conference reception and realizing you don’t know anyone. So you just stand in the corner sipping your drink–and you probably leave early.”
Goldman, a PhD in physics from Stanford, was intrigued by the linking he did see going on and by the richness of the user profiles. It all made for messy data and unwieldy analysis, but as he began exploring people’s connections, he started to see possibilities. He began forming theories, testing hunches, and finding patterns that allowed him to predict whose networks a given profile would land in. He could imagine that new features capitalizing on the heuristics he was developing might provide value to users. But LinkedIn’s engineering team, caught up in the challenges of scaling up the site, seemed uninterested. Some colleagues were openly dismissive of Goldman’s ideas. Why would users need LinkedIn to figure out their networks for them? The site already had an address book importer that could pull in all a member’s connections.
Barry Garelick, via a kind email
In The Atlantic’s ongoing debate about how to teach writing in schools, Robert Pondiscio wrote an eye-opening piece called “How Self-Expression Damaged My Students.” In it, he tells of how he used modern-day techniques for teaching writing–not teaching rules of grammar or correcting errors but treating the students as little writers and having them write. He notes, however that “good writers don’t just do stuff. They know stuff. … And if this is not explicitly taught, it will rarely develop by osmosis among children who do not grow up in language-rich homes.”
What Pondiscio describes on the writing front has also been happening with mathematics education in K-6 for the past two decades. I first became aware of it over 10 years ago when I saw what passed for math instruction in my daughter’s second grade class. I was concerned that she was not learning her addition and subtraction facts. Other parents we knew had the same concerns. Teachers told them not to worry because kids eventually “get it.”
One teacher tried to explain the new method. “It used to be that if you missed a concept or method in math, then you were lost for the rest of the year. But the way we do it now, kids have a lot of ways to do things, like adding and subtracting, so that math topics from day to day aren’t dependent on kids’ mastering a previous lesson.”
This was my initiation into the world of reform math. It is a world where understanding takes precedence over procedure and process trumps content. In this world, memorization is looked down upon as “rote learning” and thus addition and subtraction facts are not drilled in the classroom–it’s something for students to learn at home. Inefficient methods for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing are taught in the belief that such methods expose the conceptual underpinning of what is happening during these operations. The standard (and efficient) methods for these operations are delayed sometimes until 4th and 5th grades, when students are deemed ready to learn procedural fluency.
Nature Video presents five debates from the 2012 Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau
At the 2012 meeting, physics was on the agenda again. The hottest topic was particle physics because mid-way through the meeting, scientists at CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs particle. The following morning, we filmed George Smoot and Martinus Veltman as they digested the news with three young researchers. Veltman, who helped to shape the standard model of particle physics, was surprising cynical about the discovery. See his reaction in film 3: Is dark matter real? The other films deal with the relationship between theory and experiment, the state of science education, the looming energy crisis and in film 1 we ask: is this the golden age of astronomy? As you’ll see, the Nobel laureates and young physicists in our films have quite different views on these matters.
Many of us are preoccupied with behind-the-scenes election questions this week. Does the panicky Obama campaign really think that Big Bird is the President’s best surrogate? Is the Sesame Street reference meant as a subliminal reminder of the Romney Campaign’s gaffe comparing the candidate’s platform to an Etch-a-Sketch? What’s with the toy theme? Never mind. School boards in New Jersey are concerned with more substantive election questions, specifically how our new system of voting for school board members will fly during its inaugural avigation on November 6.
The Garden State has always had school board member and school board budgets on the third Tuesday in April, but on Jan 12, a new law gave communities the option of moving elections to November. This can be done in three ways: a school board resolution, municipal governing body vote, or by a petition signed by 15 percent of the voting public.
Different versions of this bill, introduced in 2008 by state Senator Shirley Turner, had died multiple deaths in committee. However, during the lame duck session last winter the bill passed with broad bipartisan support.
I hope many others, including Wisconsin, move to November elections.
Susanne Amann, Sebastian Brauns and Nils Klawitter:
Experts now believe that frozen strawberries from China are behind a massive outbreak of the norovirus that recently affected thousands of schoolchildren in eastern Germany. The episode merely illustrates the deplorable state of school lunches, a problem no one seems willing to fix.
The first school lunch that Martha Payne photographed in May consisted of a croquette, a small pizza, a bit of corn and a muffin. The nine-year-old from Scotland gave the meal six out of 10 points for taste on her “food-o-meter” and four out of 10 for healthiness.
Her plan had only been to take a shot in order to show her father that the meal wasn’t enough to fill her up, she wrote on her blog. After only a week, Payne had 25,000 hits on her blog, and now hundreds of thousands are reading it.
Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes
The other major change to the CBA affects the hiring process for teachers. Currently, teachers have the opportunity to seek to transfer to vacant positions at other schools until four weeks prior to the start of the school year. Once the internal transfer process has been completed, principals can select applicants for teaching positions from outside the district. It is pretty obvious that the school district was placing itself at a competitive disadvantage in hiring if it could not tell a potential new hire where he or she would be teaching until a month before school starts.
According to the new procedure that is now set forth in the CBA, teachers who find themselves surplused will be placed in new positions by the school district by May 1 of each year. Then vacant positions will be posted for internal transfers. While a change was proposed in the district’s initial bargaining proposal, the final agreement retains the requirement that principals must select an internal transfer applicant if any applicants for a vacant position possess the minimum qualifications. The internal transfer process closes on June 15 and at that point principals can choose external candidates for any positions that remain unfilled. This change represents a big step toward a hiring process that maximizes our chances to hire the kind of skilled and diverse applicants we are looking for.
As I mention above, the new agreement does not address wages. At this point we don’t have sufficient information to make any sort of decision about raising salaries for the 2013-14 school year. Most importantly, we have no idea what the governor and new legislature will do about revenue limits for the next biennium and so we don’t know whether we will be able to increase our spending and by how much, or whether we will have to cut our per-pupil spending, as was the case for the first year of the current biennium.
Much more on the Madison School District’s rather unique action, here.
Bill Jackson, via a kind reader’s email:
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about my dream school information system – what I’d really like to see out there to power informed school choice.
Before we do that, though, I’d like to share how I would go about assessing the quality of an elementary school if I was choosing one for my daughters today. This is all in the spirit of keepin’ it real. I’d love to hear your ideas.
As the CEO of GreatSchools, I have to start with the data, of course. At GreatSchools.org, I can access data about test scores and student diversity. In some locations, I can also find about special programs, curriculum, extra-curricular activities and transportation options. This is great stuff – it helps get me oriented.
Not too long ago, I witnessed a child, about two months shy of 3, welcome the return of some furniture to his family’s apartment with the enthusiastic declaration “Ottoman is back!” The child understood that the stout cylindrical object from which he liked to jump had a name and that its absence had been caused by a visit to someone called “an upholsterer.” The upholsterer, he realized, was responsible for converting the ottoman from one color or texture to another. Here was a child whose mother had prepared him, at the very least, for a future of reading World of Interiors.
Though conceivably much more as well. Despite the Manhattan parody to which a scene like this so easily gives rise, it is difficult to overstate the advantages arrogated to a child whose parent proceeds in a near constant mode of annotation. Reflexively, the affluent, ambitious parent is always talking, pointing out, explaining: Mommy is looking for her laptop; let’s put on your rain boots; that’s a pigeon, a sand dune, skyscraper, a pomegranate. The child, in essence, exists in continuous receipt of dictation.
Things are very different elsewhere on the class spectrum. Earlier in the year when I met Steven F. Wilson, founder of a network of charter schools that serve poor and largely black communities in Brooklyn, I asked him what he considered the greatest challenge on the first day of kindergarten each year. He answered, without a second’s hesitation: “Word deficit.” As it happens, in the ’80s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley spent years cataloging the number of words spoken to young children in dozens of families from different socioeconomic groups, and what they found was not only a disparity in the complexity of words used, but also astonishing differences in sheer number. Children of professionals were, on average, exposed to approximately 1,500 more words hourly than children growing up in poverty. This resulted in a gap of more than 32 million words by the time the children reached the age of 4.
Continue reading Before a Test, a Poverty of Words
A talented head cook at a school in central Sweden has been told to stop baking fresh bread and to cut back on her wide-ranging veggie buffets because it was unfair that students at other schools didn’t have access to the unusually tasty offerings.
Annika Eriksson, a lunch lady at school in Falun, was told that her cooking is just too good.
Pupils at the school have become accustomed to feasting on newly baked bread and an assortment of 15 vegetables at lunchtime, but now the good times are over.
I’ve seen similar issues in Madison, with respect to extracurricular activities.
Richard P. Phelps, via a kind email:
n the excellent film The Insider, Jeffrey Wigand, an ex-tobacco company executive, faces a dilemma. In return for a severance package and the health insurance coverage it provides his family, he signs confidentiality agreements promising not to reveal the company’s research effort to boost the addictive power of cigarettes. When it appears that he is preparing to speak to journalists anyway, tobacco company-contracted PR hacks assassinate Wigand’s character in the national media, and local thugs threaten his family’s safety. In the end, Wigand strikes the match that blows up tobacco industry deceit on CBS’s Sixty Minutes televised investigative news program.
I was reminded of Wigand’s story recently when a testing industry executive warned me not to reveal the specifics of a secret document currently being written–a document that, in my judgment, will effectively embed the findings of fraudulent, biased research in educational testing into US law. Among the several nasty effects should be an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars on millions of new and worse-than-worthless “audit tests”. The number of tests administered to our elementary-secondary students could double in some areas, but the quality of the results available from all tests will deteriorate.
Though this document will profoundly affect all Americans, whether directly involved in education or not, you cannot see it before it is published in its final, legal form, as a fait accompli in early 2013. I and perhaps a few hundred other testing aficionados read an early draft in 2011 but, legally, we cannot show it to you. We all signed confidentiality agreements.
Education insiders are currently writing in secret what is arguably the single most influential document in US education and psychology. Last updated in 1999, the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing is being revised and, if on schedule, will be presented in its completed form to the public in early 2013. (The testing Standards should not be confused with more common, and far more public, content standards, a.k.a. curriculum).
Richard P. Phelps, via a kind email:
Within several months, the most important document in US education testing–the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing–will incorporate the conclusions of biased, irreparably flawed research that favors education’s vested interests. School districts and taxpayers will be compelled to pay for the administration of more tests, perhaps twice as many in some areas. But, these new tests will not be used for any of the proven benefits of testing, such as feedback or motivation. Their only purpose will be to “audit” other, already-existing tests.
Why do current tests need “auditing” you ask? Allegedly, scores and score trends on standardized tests with consequences, or “stakes”, can never be trusted and need to be verified by those from parallel “no stakes” tests. Presumably, scores from no-stakes tests, no matter how administered and no matter who administers them, are as trustworthy as a pug-nosed Pinocchio.
The notion reminds me of the Will Smith-Jon Voight film Enemy of the State, in which corrupt politicians and federal intelligence agents misuse their power to monitor their fellow citizens for mutual self-aggrandizement. After the miscreants’ criminal activity is exposed, officials promise to “monitor the monitors”, apparently within the same institutional structures that harbored the original malfeasance. To that announcement, the Regina King character in the film replies “Well, who’s gonna monitor the monitors of the monitors?”
urdue University was always a back-up school for Kemsley Corell. But once she was accepted, she was won over by the barrage of mail advertising the school. She received plenty of marketing materials from other schools, but what impressed her about Purdue were the letters from faculty and staff from the Animal Sciences department, the College of Agriculture. She even received one from the dean himself.
Specific phrases in the letters made them seem personal – like the one from Marcos Fernandez, associate dean at the College of Agriculture, who underlined the words, “Congratulations” and “I look forward to meeting and getting to know you.” The letters made the Pleasant Grove, Utah applicant , feel “like I was important to Purdue and that I could really fit in there.” She started as a freshman at Purdue this fall.
Corell’s story is music to the ears of Teri Lucie Thompson, chief marketing officer for Purdue University. She’s one of the many marketing pros hired recently by universities to reach out more aggressively to students. The economic downturn and growing competition among institutions for students is prompting many schools to employ increasingly sophisticated marketing techniques to appeal to their pool of applicants – including those that can pay full price – and ensure they’ll get the highest caliber of students.
The term “marketing” once was a dirty word at universities and colleges, as many faculty felt the school’s stellar reputation should be enough to draw students. But now many schools have hired chief marketing officers, or CMOs, with six-figure salaries. Thompson, who makes a base salary of $265,000 with an annual 14-percent pension contribution, points to Bentley University and Utah State University as just two recent examples. Others schools are also hiring outside marketing firms.
“More than ever, higher education is a buyer’s market,” said Tony Pals, a spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. He says students are increasingly concerned about the economic returns of their degree and are looking for a college with the best value.
And, many colleges spend a boatload of money on marketing, often paid by prospective students’ application fees.
Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity eNewsletter, via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:
Act 10, which Governor Walker designed to kill unions of public sector workers, caused massive protests in early 2011 because of it quashing peoples’ rights. And, that is the way Judge Colas saw it in ruling on MTI’s challenge to Act 10. Colas ruled that Act 10 violates the Constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association and equal protection of public sector union members (ruling did not address state employees). Enabled by Colas’ decision, MTI petitioned the Madison Metropolitan School District to commence negotiations over a Contract to succeed that which ends June 30, 2013.
Following Judge Colas’ order, both the City of Madison and Dane County negotiated new Contracts with their largest union, AFSCME Local 60. MTI, along with hundreds of supporters, pressed the MMSD to follow suit. After 37 hours of bargaining last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, negotiators for MTI, SEE- MTI (clerical/technical employees), EA-MTI (educational assistants and nurse assistants), SSA-MTI (security assistants) and USO-MTI (substitute teachers) were successful in reaching terms for a new Contract through June 30, 2014.
The Union achieved the #1 priority expressed by members of MTI’s five bargaining units in the recent survey, protecting their Contract rights and benefits, and keeping their Union Contract. The “just cause” standard for any kind of discipline or dismissal is in tact, as is arbitration by a neutral third party of any such action by the District, and of all claims that District administration violated the terms of an MTI Contract. The Union was also successful in preserving salary and wage schedules (except for substitutes), as well as fringe benefits, another priority of members responding to MTI’s recent survey.
Solidarity was evident from the outset as, for the first time ever, representatives from all five (5) of MTI’s bargaining units worked together to bargain simultaneously. Representatives from the Custodial and Food Service units, represented by AFSCME Local 60, also lent support throughout the negotiations, even as they were rushing to bargain new contracts for their members. And, in a powerful display of solidarity, MTI’s Teacher Bargaining Team repeatedly put forth proposals enabling the District to increase health insurance contributions for teachers, if the District would agree NOT to increase contributions from their lower paid brothers and sisters in MTI’s EA, SEE and SSA bargaining units. Unfortunately, the District rebuffed the offers, insisting that all employees work under the cloud of uncertainty that employee health insurance contributions may be increased up to 10% of the premium after June 30, 2013.
The District entered the negotiations espousing “principles that put student learning in the forefront, with a respect for the fact that our employees are the people who directly or indirectly impact that learning”. MTI heard these concerns and made major accommodations in many contractual areas to address these needs. Areas where MTI accommodated the District’s stated need to attract staff who can close the achievement gap: 1) enable the District to place new hires anywhere on the salary schedule; 2) give new hires a signing bonus of any amount; 3) appoint new hires and non-District employees to any coaching or other extra duty position (annual District discretion of continuing extra duty position); 4) current staff to have no right to apply for vacancies occurring after June 15, to enable District to offer employment to outsiders; 5) enable the District to assign new hires to evening/weekend teaching positions; and 6) enable the District to hold two evening parent-teacher conferences per school year.
Yet, other District proposals appeared to have nothing to do with either student achievement or respecting the employees who make that happen. The District insisted on eliminating sick leave benefits for all substitute teachers hired after July 1, 2013. The District insisted on language which would non-renew the contracts of teachers on medical leave for more than two years. And the District’s numerous other “take backs”, unrelated to either of their stated principles, but just to take advantage of the leverage enabled by the uncertainty of Act 10. These concessions were received bitterly by the thousand who gathered at Wednesday’s MTI meeting, hoping for positive signs that the District’s messages of respect would be reflected in the settlement.
On the downside was the District’s attack on other Contract provisions. In violation of the principles they espoused to Walker’s then-proposed Act 10, in February 2011, Board members enabled District management to demand concessions from AFSCME and MTI in exchange for a new Contract. All seven Board members said of Act 10, “The Governor’s proposals are a damaging blow to all our public services and dedicated public employees. The legislation’s radical and punitive approach to the collective bargaining process seems likely to undermine our productive working relationship with our teachers and damage the work environment, to the ultimate detriment of student achievement.”
Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore espoused similar feelings just last month. In referring to Act 10, she wrote District employees “… we still need to determine together how to go forward in the best interest of our employees and our district.”
The pledges of Board members and Supt. Belmore were not worth the paper they were written on. Demanding significant changes and deletion of terms which they had agreed – some since the 1960’s – the District negotiators were relentless.