Monday medley: teacher tenure, home runs and iPads

Star-Advertiser editorial writer Christine Donnelly continued her look at the principals’ view of the education universe with an excellent piece on teacher tenure.

In a nutshell, principals want more flexibility to hire teachers who best fit the needs of their schools and not be as bound to the seniority system.

They’re frustrated that younger teachers they’ve trained to carry out their programs can be bumped by more experienced teachers who may not be as good a fit for their schools. Some principals think tenure also breeds a sense of unhealthy complacency. From Donnelly’s article:

Farrington High School Principal Catherine Payne said the teacher-transfer process is a vestige of an outdated way of thinking that is holding back the public schools.

“You want immediate improvement in the public school system? Get rid of tenure — for everybody. The system, the way it works now, fosters a sense of job entitlement among some people. It’s not everybody, definitely not. But even if you have one or two people on the staff who act like they have a job for life and don’t have to work hard to keep it, it has a very negative effect,” said Payne, explaining that while only teachers and principals gain tenure, other school employees gain similar job security known as “permanent status.”

Payne said replacing tenure with progressively longer contracts based on fair performance evaluators would make employees less complacent while protecting their rights.

“I tell people this all the time. It would help. A lot. That said, I don’t have high hopes that it’s going to happen.”

Acting Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and the teachers’ union are open to discussing changes to the tenure system in upcoming contract negotitions, but as always, the devil is in the details. The HSTA was also open to drug testing until refusing to implement the agreed-to contract.

In any case, it’s good to see some of the shouting about education being replaced by thoughtful discussion of the nitty-gritty ways we can improve our schools, and Donnelly has been doing an especially good job of facilitating this.

***

Stephen Tsai had a fascinating story that answered the question that was puzzling me last week about the power surge in women’s softball, which he reports is mostly the result of lighter composite bats with bigger barrels and more flex and bounce.

This takes nothing away from the NCAA record-setting home run binge of the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine this year.

It takes tremendous athleticism and eye-hand coordination to get the barrel of any bat on the high-caliber of pitching at the top level of college softball. Not to mention that other schools use the same bats as the Wahine, but weren’t able to go deep nearly as often.

***

I was watching my 6-year-old granddaughter working on an Apple iPad yesterday and it struck me that kids her age will probably never have much use for traditional computers and laptops with keyboards and upright screens.

She watched videos, browsed the Web, listened to music, played games with unbelievable graphics, drew funny pictures of her big brother and used innovative programs that drilled her on reading and math — all by gliding her little fingers intuitively across the screen with no instruction required.

By time she’s of an age where she needs to type in a lot of data, the iPad will be in its third or fourth generation and will likely have new input options that make the traditional keyboard obsolete.

I’m at the point where I’m doing 90 percent of my writing on an iPod Touch that fits in the palm of my hand, and I’m not yet convinced that the bigger iPad would be better for the task.

(I’ve heard all the cracks about how this explains my small thinking.)

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17 Comments on “Monday medley: teacher tenure, home runs and iPads”

  1. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha David ~
    When Apple first released the iPad, I believe you stated it was not ready for prime time. I think users have shown this is a revolutionary device – even version 1.0. As you point out today, generations 3-4 will further change how society interfaces with technology. I believe Dell is now offering a touch screen desktop device. The future will be both exciting and fun!

    I thought Donnelly’s discussion of tenure was excellent. We should put ourselves in the shoes of teachers to understand the complexity of the issue. First, in many cases, teachers are on probation for two years. One goes to college for 4-5 years to earn teacher accreditation; maybe 2-3 more years for advanced degrees. Probation for two years???

    Teachers have bills to pay and lives outside of the classroom. Our universities say they are trained once they receive their degree. Most completed student teaching under the supervision of a trained teacher. These employees need assurance before committing long term to the profession. Thus, two years is a long time to wait.

    Yet earning life-time tenure after a couple years of work is inconsistent with our values. Tenure is important because it protects teachers against subjective evaluation. And, academic freedom, the ability to speak out against the status quo, is also an important American value.

    Teaching is different than working on Wall Street. If a broker advises you to sell your stock and the value then goes up, you change brokers. Feedback is relatively quick and visible. Evaluating merit in education is far more complex.

    Thus, I believe there should be a graduated system. For example, after successfully completing a probationary period, teachers should be allowed to apply for Tenure Level 1, which might be a three-year contract, for example. If a teacher successfully passes this stage, they should be allowed to apply for Tenure Level 2, which could be a five-year contract.

    At the end of Tenure Level 2, the teacher would have been working for ten years. At this point, they could re-apply for Tenure Level 2, which would provide contractual protection five years at a time. Such a schema seems preferable to life-time tenure.

    Teachers need security and protection from subjective intrusion. Yet few of us are comfortable with granting positions for life.

    I would like to point out a related article dealing with merit in education. Hillsborough County (Florida) plans to spend $3.4 million, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, to calculate a teacher’s annual “value-added” contribution.

    This is the critical point in teacher evaluation – and retention. How much does a particular teacher (or principal) add to (or detract from) a student’s yearly academic growth? This is the Missing Link in merit pay discussions.

    The article is posted here and there is an excellent commentary here.

    We cannot move forward on tenure, teacher security and merit pay until these issues are resolved.

    A*L*O*H*A

  2. Ross Says:

    Dave: wow you do 90% of your writing on iPod touch. I do most of my postings to Volcanic Ash and other blogs via my iPhone, which accounts for my frequent typos. Hard to proof once you fill up the box…..unless there is a trick to that. Maybe an app for that?

  3. David Shapiro Says:

    Ross, My main spellchecking app is my eyeballs. The old editor in me …

    Scott, I said the iPad wasn’t ready for prime time as a laptop replacement. For one thing, it needs to be tethered to a PC for syncing and backup. That will change with future updates. For now, I have my MacBook, a little Windows netbook and the iPod Touch and didn’t want to add to the collection. I felt the iPad had to replace one of them before I ordered one. After watching my granddaughter, I think it can replace the netbook and I placed my order.

  4. Michael Says:

    Many write from the Heart. David was small to Goliath. He had the ipod while Goliath had the Ibad.
    Guess who fell down and hard.

    Some reply while driving, thinking Pali tunnel and doing text maneuvers.

  5. WooWoo Says:

    Goold-

    All job evaluations are subjective. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do them. There will never be a perfect evaluation system for a teacher, or for any other occupation in the world. Whatever system rolls out, there will undoubtedly be some teachers that lose their jobs that don’t deserve to. That is unfortunate, but we can’t run away from accountability just because of it. We all know that innocent people occasionally get convicted, but nobody is arguing that we should stop arresting people.

    I certainly agree that an evaluation based solely on standardized test scores is unfair, and I agree that what should be measured is improvement. But a combination of test score, student feedback, and parent feedback and principal feedback should be sufficient to give a fair review. If your test scores stink, and the principal, parents and kids hate you, its time to move on. Go somewhere where they appreciate what you do. And if the same thing happens, look in the mirror and admit that you can’t teach.

    The article that Dave linked to was excellent. It remains to be seen if the HSTA will follow through and embrace the end of lifetime employment. What is said to the press is often very different than what happens behind closed doors during contract negotiations. It bears repeating that HSTA has no legal obligation to the children, only to protect its members and get the best contract possible.

    Everybody, in whatever occupation they have, should have a slight fear of losing their job if they fail to perform. Not an overriding fear, not an oppressive and omnipresent fear, but a small one that only jumps out when you fail to perform as expected. A small dose of fear immunizes people against the diseases that come with complacency. Lifetime employment is a petri dish designed to grow organizational diseases.

  6. Michael Says:

    One who is a union member need not fear losing their job. Show up to work, get along with others.

    In others words, one who is a slacker, just does what they have to and not be sick. Will retire over one who argues with management and does more than their share of the work but does not brown nose. One who is passive like a slug. I always said there is a clear tone when onion rings. Makes me cry.

  7. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    I am still learning how to use my iPhone – I feel like I’m wearing boxing gloves most of the time which is clear from the number of typos I make, but I am committed to moving into the 21st century long before I shuff off this mortal coil.

  8. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha ~
    @ David: Thanks for clarifying. I do believe the iPad has surprised us all. I agree with your points but have seen numerous accounts showing how users have worked around the issues you mentioned.

    I’m a fan of Apple – just look at the phone market. Until the iPhone, companies weren’t offering these innovations. Now phones must compete and even do more. This shows the greatness of America. The iPad has every computer/tech company scrambling to catch up and more forward. We need more of this leadership!

    @WooWoo: I agree with your points about lifetime positions. This isn’t good for anyone – even the employee. As you say, we all need a slight dose of job insecurity to stay lean and trim on the job.

    Yet education has always been plagued by the challenge of assigning accountability. This is why most systems default to years on the job, degrees obtained or additional training.

    I don’t agree that ALL evaluations are subjective. There are some components – such as “how one gets along with coworkers or the boss” for example.

    Yet whether one can close the deal in auto or home sales is more important than whether we like each other. The accuracy of a data entry employee is more important than the color of hair or number of tattoos.

    As you know, I’m union and we work to tighten standards – to make evaluations more objective. Why? It stops corruption, nepotism and favoritism.

    Everyone should be in favor of objective evaluations with measurable criteria – especially if you want to control government growth and maintain accountability.

    A*L*O*H*A

  9. David Shapiro Says:

    Cap, I highly recommend an iPhone app called TextExpander, which does what it suggests. I’ve used it for years on my Mac and have developed hundreds of shorthands that save me bazillions of keystrokes. For instance, I’ve set it so “llgl” expands to Linda Lingle and “mh” expands to Mufi Hannemann and “rsp” expands to responsible, which I’m not sure I’ve ever used in the same sentence before with those two.

    I wish Apple would allow the app to work within the OS so the shorthands could be used for data entry in any app, but for now you can only use it in the TextExpander app or a notepad called Simplenote and copy/paste into blogs and emails and such. Simplenote is neat because it automatically syncs what you write on the iPhone/iPod to a Web cloud that you can easily access from your PC. That’s how I write my column and blog drafts on the iPod Touch, then edit them on the PC.

  10. Michael Says:

    Bachelor Science that Unions are not corrupt.

  11. shaftalley Says:

    i just have a feeling that no matter how hard well-meaning people in public school systems try to improve their schools,if we have in place a tax-funded and compulsory school monopoly,we will continue to have problems.time after time,since the “great society” programs came into effect in the ’60’s,the results have been mediocre to failures.depending on which great leap forward programs.i mean,for one thing,how can we expect the future generations of youth to believe in freedom, the true american way(individual rights,etc.) and a definite need for a limited gov’t.,when the public are forced to believe in and forced (with the threat of prison)to support tax-funded schools?i hope that our society will be allowed to get more voluntary and competitive,market driven schools.nothing beats the free market.

  12. jayz43 Says:

    Shapiro: “For instance, I’ve set it so “llgl” expands to Linda Lingle and “mh” expands to Mufi Hannemann and “rsp” expands to responsible, which I’m not sure I’ve ever used in the same sentence before with those two.”

    That was my best laugh of the day. Actually, that’s why I read the comments, even though the article might not interest me.

    You must have been a disciple of Buchwald, since you worked inside the beltway. He was funny with some memorable comments: “Just when you think there’s nothing to write about, Nixon says, “I am not a crook.”, or ”I worship the quicksand he walks in”. Somehow, Hannemann comes to mind, he, he. I still think there is a big guffaw waiting to be had with his, “half-baked manapua” comment.

    Election year ALWAYS yields good material for political satirists, which I believe is your true calling. You do well melding the inane with the serious.

    I have a granddaughter who is 7 years old. Isn’t the innocence of youth so beautiful?

  13. David Shapiro Says:

    jayz43, I just came in from letting the grandkid and a bunch of her friends run through the sprinklers in the back yard where they found many rainbows in the droplets, and beautiful is exactly the right word. I only wish she’d put down the darn iPad before she went slip ‘n sliding.

  14. jayz43 Says:

    Life is good!

  15. zzzzzz Says:

    My first thought when I heard the half-baked manapua comment was whether the other half was steamed.

  16. WooWoo Says:

    Cap/Doc-

    I guess you made the plunge into the Apple i-world. You’ve already darted ahead of me, I only have an iPod. The new iPhone coming out next week has piqued my interest, however, and I will be checking it out. I may wind up picking one up.

    Have you been enjoying the podcasts that I mentioned?

  17. charles Says:

    Wonder why Donnelly left the paper after being there for over ten years.


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