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Re: Teacher placement in MPS schools
Subj:      Re: [Mpls] Teacher placement in MPS schools
Date:     9/5/2004 1:34:17 PM Central Daylight Time
From: (Doug Mann)

In a message dated 9/5/2004 9:28:23 AM Central Daylight Time brionna harder writes:

<<  You state that there is a high concentration of probationary teachers in
the "hardest schools," meaning schools where the poverty rate and transciency
rate are very high and teacher turn-over also high.  (I am not disputing this.
. . this is reality.)...">>

What could be done to change the situation?

Part of the solution to the high concentration of teachers in the "hardest schools" (your words) is to distribute probationary and tenured teachers within an area of licensure evenly throughout the schools.  For example, if
one-fourth of the district's K-3 teachers are on probation, then about one-fourth of the positions for K-3 teachers at every school should be reserved for probationary teachers. When a teacher completes the probationary period, they would have to bid for an open position reserved for tenured teachers (If a position and
the teacher holding it are converted from probationary to tenured status at the same time, the teacher should have the option of keeping that job, in my opinion, for the sake of promoting stability). Some tenured teachers would have to be bumped when this policy is first implemented and during periods where there are big increases in the share of probationary teachers employed by the district, new school openings, etc.
In other respects, I advocate following procedures for assigning all teachers that the district is supposed to follow for tenured teachers. The district should not reassign teachers from one year to the next without their informed consent unless their jobs are eliminated (And even then the teachers should be allowed to file a grievance in order to force the district to show that the job is really being cut.) If a job is going to be substantially modified, the teacher holding it should have the opportunity to modify their skills set and licensure that will be needed to hold the job (in its modified form).

The district must also stop laying off excessive numbers of teachers. Laying off about 33% of the teachers in anticipation of an 8% decline in enrollment is certainly excessive. By the end of June, the district should have determined the number of teacher positions to be filled on the first day of school. And except for a little fine-tuning, the process of assigning teachers should be done before the end of June. At that point only teachers whose the district didn't plan to keep on the payroll should be getting layoff notices. Assuming the district is trying to keep class sizes the same, the district should have only laid off about 8% of the teachers in anticipation of an 8% decline in enrollment.    

If the district were to follow the rules set forth in the teacher tenure act, the teacher turnover rate would be much lower. The district can ignore the rules because the teachers union is letting the district administration
disregard the rules. The district is not supposed to lay off more teachers than necessary. The district is not supposed to reassign teachers without their consent unless the teacher's job is being eliminated or the teacher is on probationary status and is being laid off to preserve the job of a tenured teacher.

Teachers may not hop from a teaching job with one district to a teaching job with another district without giving notice by April 1 to the district where they are employed. Teachers who plan to retire also have to give notice by
April 1 in order to collect full retirement benefits.  Teacher who quit or retire for good cause and can convince an administrative law judge that they quit or retired for good cause are generally not penalized for giving notice after
April 1.

Cutting down the turnover rate and distributing probationary teachers more evenly through the district will make it possible to properly supervise tenured teachers. The district should measure the performance of teachers by academic achievement (such as growth in reading and math) and other measurable, education-related outcomes. All probationary teachers (and some of the tenured teachers) should have teaching improvement plans. Those who are ineffective teachers and do not make satisfactory progress toward becoming effective teachers (using objective, measurable criteria) should be fired (which is allowed under the teacher tenure act).  

I am also for eliminating tracking, which is the assignment of students to classes on a part-to-full-time basis by perceived ability in reading (and / or other subjects). And I believe that untracking cannot be done successfully
without cutting down teacher turnover and distributing probationary teachers more evenly throughout the district.  It is generally easier and requires less skill to "ability-group" and get good results with the "high-ability students. The problem is that the results you get with "low ability" students are generally very poor when you ability-group. It requires greater teaching ability in some areas in order to teach a "gifted and talented" curriculum to the general student population without holding back the high achievers and watering down the content of whole classroom instruction to some degree, i.e., "teaching to the middle."  

-Doug Mann, King Field
Mann for School Board