xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Don't Forget South Central: October 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Evaluating Teachers

Below is a comment I submitted to the L.A. Times in response to their article on this new type of merit pay (read it here).

"As an educator, neither competition, threats, coercion, or merit pay will improve my teaching ability. Money doesn't keep me up at night wondering how I can sneak food to my homeless student so that his friends don't see. A bonus doesn't compel me to spend endless hours preparing lesson plans to make class informative
and meaningful for my students. There is no sum that can buy the feeling I experience when a student finally 'gets it' and it changes his/her life. For many educators, no one can hold us to a higher standard than that to which we hold ourselves. This motivation, this calling, is something to which most teachers gravitate, certainly not for the salary and the demeaning treatment we receive in society today. And for the record, I would never have dared to compare myself as a new teacher, to the many wise veterans who guided me and molded me in my early years of teaching. Experience matters in teaching, as it does in medicine, science, and countless other professions."

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Displaced Teachers Rehired...Bye Bye LAAMS

This week we lost two of our teachers new to LAAMS who were rehired at their former schools or picked up a position in another capacity. Combined with the lateness with which many current positions were filled this school year (some 6 weeks into the school year), we have had/will have several classes taught by long-term subs at LAAMS this year. This is not good.

So let's get this straight: LAUSD fires thousands of teachers, South Central is hit disproportionately with 40% of these, LAUSD sends us permanent teachers in an untimely manner, then takes them back without regard to the children in the classrooms? Truly, if South Central isn't bearing the brunt of these cuts, who is? How many more new staff will be pulled back to their former positions, causing disruption to all involved?

You cannot replicate the quality of the instruction of a permanent teacher even with the most capable substitute. The students know they are not permanent, and they subconsciously don't give it their all, because why should they? The sub is not going to be around long enough for parent conferences, or to impose consequences.

We have noticed an increase in discipline problems perhaps due to the large number of new faces on campus. I suppose the kids go through a hazing process with new staff, and we have seen troubling trends emerging from more crew activity, graffiti, and downright defiance. It is disheartening to see regression when the last 5 years have been nothing but forward movement.

Our B track RIF'ed teachers have decided to take a couple of weeks off before they return to work on the 24th of this month. Subs will teach those positions for at least two weeks, and then C Track RIF'ed teachers will take over those spots. However we do not know what impact this week's UTLA decision will have on whether we can select our own Rifters for these spots or whether we will have to work from some list. It is probably nothing to worry about, because in spite of job shortages, people still don't want to come down to South Central.

It is difficult to maintain positive growth on the API in any given year. These unfilled positions don't bode well for this year's academic performance. Yet if we do not meet our target, we will be branded a failing school, and none of the real reasons for this will be presented. I hope this blog will be testimony to the unjust policies we have had to endure in order to keep serving the students in our community.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October in South Central

As summer continues to taunt us, the students and teachers at L.A. Academy continue to surmount the challenges imposed on us by a bankrupt state, and cynical society (fueled by non-stop negative press by the L.A. Times and other bandwagon followers...)

Our school continues to work with new staff who are still adjusting to working at the middle school level, since the majority of them came from elementary and high school. One has left the school this week, leaving us with another unfilled on B Track. Teachers serving in the capacity of substitutes (due to being laid off in the Reduction In Force) are being hired back slowly, but seemingly without rhyme or reason. B Track teachers on vacation have had to work as subs on A or C tracks to maintain their health benefits, but when they return to their "own classrooms" at the end of the month they will not have had had any rest or vacation, unless they take time off, which results in a day to day sub covering their current assignment. One such teacher was clearly upset at having to relinquish a class of students who were in dire need of a permanent teacher. It took all her skill to be able to maintain order of the class and to actually teach, and she know a day to day sub will struggle tremendously when they take over.

Speaking of benefits, we received notice that teachers' health benefits will be changing next year, and we will see an increase in co-pays if we select to maintain services with the UCLA Medical Group or Cedars Sinai Medical Group. To read about the changes, click here.

On another note, our air conditioning gave out the latter part of the week, and we wondered how a 10 year old school can have so many air-conditioning problems. Some buildings have never had air-conditioning due to unfinished labor in the original construction, but by the time the request for service had been turned in, we were told it would take at least a couple of years for it to be completed. The monster that is the bureaucracy in LAUSD does not win any fans when you are trying to teach a class full of middle schoolers in 95 degree heat.

Finally, we are curious to see how the battle for the Construction Division turns out. Do we really want to go back to the good old Belmont days? As someone who works in 95 degrees June-October, I say pay Guy Mehula his money!
image from hubpages.com