OPINION: John Deasy a disappointing choice for LAUSD superintendent



imageBy 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.

No.

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.

  • Leonard Isenberg

    David,

    An excellent article that I would like to republish at perdaily. That being said, I think we are both aware that whether it is Brewer, Cortines, or now Deasy, those in control at LAUSD and the politicians at the state and federal level that keep them in power have precisely the public education system they want.

    Rather then continue to respond to their monologue of nebulous educational platitude without any substance that never comes to fruition, we at perdaily are trying to create a national clearinghouse for ideas that show the national scope of this premeditated failure of public education, but also shows a specific viable alternative that is presently blacked out of the mainstream media that publishes no criticism of charter schools, value-added assessment, or merit pay- reminiscent of Pravda, Isvestia, and Tass state controlled media under the old Soviet Union.

    Even though what you and I and the others you will find listed at perdaily represent the majority view of what educators know at the school level (microcosm) and what academic know in terms of data and historical context (macrocosm), neither LAUSD nor UTLA will ever support these ideas nor will the media report it until we. I respect your intellect and would enjoy publicizing our shared concerns.

    Best,

    Lenny

  • Stuart Goldurs

    Will he be just like the others blaming the teachers for everything and enhancing the us (School Board, Superintendent, Administrators,) versus them (teachers)?

  • Andre Noble

    I am pro union teacher. However, I think value added is a positive step forward to making evaluations more fair and objective. The current LAUSD STULL evaluation system is rife with opportunities for administration to harass teachers who pose an intellectual threat. Lets have Value Added in exchange for professional salaries and more classroom autonomy.

  • Leonard Isenberg

    Andre,

    According to Professor Diane Ravitch and others who have looked at value-added assessment, it has a 45% margin of error, which makes an assessment of 17% and 65% are mathematically indistinguishable. Furthermore, there is a more fundamental question: Why are we assessing the effectiveness of teacher based on how well their students do, when their students for the most part are years behind grade level because of the continued practice of social promotion, which gives single-subject credentialed teachers with no remedial skills and a substantive course to teacher, students who do not have the foundational skills in Language Arts or math to be engaged. So we should make the teaching the whipping boy of failed LAUSD administrative practice or worse yet, have them give passing grades or fix assessments to save their jobs and avoid being targeted by mafia-like LAUSD administrators.

    And finally, value-added assessment will not get rid of the truly abysmal teachers who will find a way around this assessment of their effectiveness, because they blindly support the incompetence of LAUSD administrators who are at the root of this long failed system. Isn’t it strange that public education reform reforms everything but the corrupt and dysfunctional school districts at the root of the problem. Worse than giving them a pass, it actually gives them a crucial role in all fail reform from charters, where they are the LEA oversight to pilot schools where they have an absolute veto over who will be the principal, along with their right to unilateral abrogate the UTLA/LAUSD Collective Bargaining Agreement.

    Check out perdaily.com to see that this fraud is going on throughout the U.S. and join us in positing a specific viable alternative model for real education reform where all- students, parents, teachers, and administrators are held responsible under a system of two-way accountability in lieu of the present top/down totalitarian model that terrorizes teachers into submission.

    Lenny[at]perdaily.com

  • Nadjib

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    LAUSD’s $20 billion school construction program – scheduled to build 145 schools by 2012 – is designed to provide a neighborhood school for every student, eliminate involuntary busing and create small learning communities in secondary schools.
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