By David Lyell (left), LAUSD teacher
I’m disappointed by the appointment of John Deasy as the superintendent to the LAUSD School Board. The school board didn’t even bother to consider any other candidates, which is very strange. The public needs to remember that the mayor, who celebrated this appointment, after recently attacking UTLA, was also handed a vote of “no confidence” by teachers at eight of the 10 schools he takes credit for operating.
The reality is that the teachers at those school sites operate those schools. The mayor, who rarely shows up, only operates them on paper, and dismally at that. We need to remember that this is the same mayor who, in 2009, spent 15 times as much as his nearest opponent on his campaign, then refused to debate him.
Deasy embraces Value-Added. Value-added testing is yet another example a punitive, ineffective, dictatorial management style. A July 2010 report by the Institute of Education Sciences concluded that, “more than 90 percent of the variation in student gain scores is due to the variation in student-level factors that are not under the control of the teacher.” An August 2010 report by the Economic Policy Institute warned in a report that it would be “unwise” to give substantial weight to VAM scores in measuring teacher effectiveness. Researchers for RAND concluded that, “the research base is currently insufficient to support the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions about individual teachers.”
LAUSD Board Members cry about a budget crisis, yet spend $100 million per year on non-mandated assessments — that is, testing not required by law — and $43 million on mini-districts. In December 2010, they fired clerical and custodial workers at school sites after firing teachers and instituting furloughs, and they transferred hundreds of other clerical and custodial staff. Now Cortines says we need to take more furlough days.
We need to use the Federal Jobs money for its intended purpose: to save jobs. We need to spend that $143 million that is wasted on testing and mini-districts, and spend it on teachers, clerical, and custodial staff.
Aside from his employment record, serious ethical questions remain concerning Deasy’s background. In addition to the LMU and University of Louisville scandals, Deasy comes from the Gates Foundation. Gates — whose company Microsoft was literally sued by the US Government for antitrust allegations and using market dominance to stifle competition — is now an advocate for, of all things, competition. Like Oprah, Gates is just wrong. Instead of asking why it’s so hard to fire teachers, they need to ask why school districts can’t carry out their administrative duties in a timely manner.
Gates has even recently advocated for larger class sizes, and videotaping teachers. That’s how out of touch he is. Our schools are already so darn top-heavy with administrators, classrooms are under-staffed, and teachers are under-paid, over-worked, and under-appreciated. In Gates’ world classrooms would host one thousand students. Teachers would have every twitch scrutinized by a panel of six-figure education “experts” who then meet with the teacher to tell them what they need to do to improve. Where I come from, that sounds like a colossal waste of tax-payer dollars. Of course, I’m exaggerating, but those are the type of policies he advocates.
LAUSD is insanely top-heavy with administrators who make well over six figures. We need less bureaucracy. A test result cannot teach a student. A teacher can. It’s very strange how the very people who claim to care about children the most are the same individuals who do everything humanly possible to actually avoid having to spend time in a classroom. They love their cushy six-figure jobs.
We need real reformers who want to work with teachers instead of demonizing them. As it is, 50 percent of all teachers quit within the first five years. The numbers are even higher in charter schools. Fewer than one in seven charters produce better results, and many are simply out of control, as we saw with the Parent Trigger scandal in Compton. Charters are the new deregulation, and we all know how well that worked with the banks.
We need leaders who recognize that the way to improve education is to support the work teachers do. Teachers are responsible for student achievement, not administrators, not tests.
Read more from David Lyell at davidlyell.blogspot.com.