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"Whenever you look at a D or F school, that's not fair to the children and it's not fair to the parents. We want exceptional schools here in Arkansas and that includes Little Rock. No one should be left behind or left out."

--Asa Hutchinson

Leave it to Asa Hutchinson to rise above the snark and insults, and put things plain. And call out for reason. He always had the level head. As union bosses and upset teachers and editorial writers were prepping their bombing runs, the governor of Arkansas was defusing the situation. And standing firm on his principles. Doing both isn't easy.

The debate about whether to grant a waiver to the Little Rock School District so it can get around that No Bad Teacher Left Behind law was getting nasty. Or at least approaching nasty. Johnny Key, the commissioner of education, wants an easier path toward getting rid of the worst teachers in failing schools. He'd like permission to do so as needed, without having to wait up to two years while bad teachers appeal and stall--while losing another class or two of students to the streets.

Union bosses, knowing that even bad teachers pay union dues, have frowned on the idea. Negotiations, they say, are on-going.

An old editorial writer once told us never to take on the opposition's weakest argument. Take on its strongest. So here are the union bosses' arguments, as we can tell from speeches, news releases and fliers:

• The Little Rock Education Association put this out in a news release over the weekend: "This is about the disrespect and disdain that has been shown to the city of Little Rock community since the state takeover. The contract situation is just the latest in a series of slaps to the face that our students, educators, families and community has endured."

Hmmm. We doubt fewer people have more respect for teachers than somebody like Johnny Key, who sees their work every day as commissioner of education in this state. As for the governor, he went out of his way to tell the papers about all the wonderful things teachers do daily. (See Tuesday's front-page story.)

We wouldn't think the negotiation over dismissal waivers is about respect, dis- or otherwise. It's about the end results coming out of the classroom. Johnny Key says any waiver action would be used as a scalpel, not a chainsaw. Because if it's pert-near impossible to remove a bad teacher from a failing school, one who misses most Fridays, one whose students make not a bit of progress in the subject matter after a semester of classes, one sleep-walking to retirement, then how are schools going to improve?

A better question: How many whole student classes must be lost over the years while bad teachers use their contract and their union to stall a removal? Is one whole class of students worth it? Maybe two? Three?

A large part of the "Little Rock community" agrees with us. For proof, see the waiting lists to get into charter schools.

• The unions might tell you that this whole thing is a scam so the state can fire a massive amount of teachers. Fliers saying just that have been distributed at meetings.

But the education commissioner, who would do the firings, said this earlier this week: "The academic success of nearly 11,000 LRSD students in these schools depends on having all administrative tools available. The outstanding teachers, administrators and support staff who come to work every day with the sole focus of helping our students achieve their potential have no reason to worry."

That's the point. He has only asked for waivers in failing schools. Should the self-esteem of teachers in F-rated schools be a higher priority than the education, and the future, of Little Rock's school children? We know what our answer would be.

• One program at a union meeting over the weekend accused Johnny Key of wanting a contract that would "grant him the right to fire teachers without cause."

Does "without cause" include being an unsuccessful teacher?

One theory being publicized by the unions is that the state just wants to get rid of union representation in the Little Rock School District. And these are the first steps.

That makes no sense. If the union really thought that, its bosses would compromise on the waiver issue, and sign a new contract. Bingo. Problem solved.

The fact is that if the union makes this a sticking point, Johnny Key and the state have other options. Other districts have dropped unions as the bargaining agents for teachers. Then implementing waivers wouldn't be a problem at all.

The unions could continue to follow past practice, and follow their rhetoric, and follow those who'd put the employment of bad teachers ahead of kids on the priority list. And follow it all over a cliff, figuratively speaking.

But we'll bet before that happens, more level-headed types will figure it out.

As the Book says, come, let us reason together. In good faith, and with the best intentions.

Editorial on 11/02/2018

Print Headline: Reasonable adults

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Comments

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  • limb
    November 2, 2018 at 11:02 a.m.

    What’s are "bombing runs?"

  • JakeTidmore
    November 2, 2018 at 12:07 p.m.

    Before swallowing the ADG's swill on this subject, I highly and strongly recommend that you read a letter Dr Michael Mills (Our Community Our Schools) sent to Key. It is on his FB post:

    ht tps://ww w.facebook.c om/photo.php?fbid=10156493946079220&set=a.46552249219&type=3&theater
    **
    Here is a summary of the data he posted:
    ....key facts outlined by Mills:

    * There are no A or B high schools in the state with a majority black or poor population and only 4 with a C rating. All the schools targeted for easier firing in Little Rock are majority black and poor schools. School grades statewide correlate with racial and poverty levels, as the chart at top shows.

    * Not a single school in Arkansas with a majority black or majority poor enrollment graded at A. Only three such schools earned Bs. Two of them are in the Little Rock School District — Gibbs and Williams.

    * Of 16 majority black charter schools in the state, two have received Cs. The others are D and F schools.
    ----
    This editorial by ADG has nothing whatsoever to do with improving public education. It is a blatant attempt to bust a teacher union, to undermine public education, and to promote charter schools.
    The fact that ADG ignores data and research on this issue is enough to tell me who is lying and who is not. Time George Washington to take the ADG editorial staff to the wood shed and remind their hindquarters that telling the truth is more important than any hidden agenda.

  • PopMom
    November 2, 2018 at 12:24 p.m.

    JakeTidmore,

    I disagree with Mills' letter. Yes, many of the failing schools are largely minority. So? This is not uncommon due to the history of discrimination and underfunding of minority schools. There is a huge achievement gap in this country at large. The best way to remedy this is not to pretend that it doesn't exist; it is best to help the minority students achieve by giving them better schools and more opportunities. Other minority school districts across the country are producing much better students. How do they do this? First, they make sure the kids are in school. Second, they make the kids work hard reading, writing, and learning math. Third, they fire incompetent teachers and attract good teachers with higher salaries. Fourth, they do not pass the kids on to the next level when they are not prepared. Something is broken in the system when these teachers are passing the kids on to the next level. Some of them need to be fired. Minority children can learn. I am tired of the LRSD teachers union blaming everything on the parents and the kids.

  • JakeTidmore
    November 2, 2018 at 4:03 p.m.

    I am tired of the blame game. Period.
    As I've reiterated over and over, show me the research and the data. That's what I'm doing. Please do the same because that's the only way I'll respect anyone's position. Prove that your argument is justified by evidence.
    Am getting a bit tired of the magic wand approach. Do this and wave your hands about and all will be wonderful.
    And with the large number of D/F schools, both public and charter, why are you picking on LRSD almost in exclusion of all the others?? Hmmmm.....do I smell the smoke of hypocrisy?
    So....bring on your best argument. Bring on the facts and research that prove it's the best. And screw the blame game.
    If that was the case, then Johnny Key ought to be the first person on everyone's list as the goat. He took over the district when it only had 6 problem schools and it tripled under his leadership. Don't they fire CEOs for even less a showing than Key has done with his stint as LRSD chief??
    Keep Fair Dismissal. It's not the monster Key and his cronies make it out to be.
    **
    From ARTimes:
    Here's more on that law from a veteran Little Rock lawyer whose practice includes employment law and representing teachers:

    The milquetoast character of the Fair Dismissal Act needs to be emphasized way more.

    The truth is that, yes, it provides some due process, but the actual substantive restrictions on discipline and termination are not difficult at all for any moderately diligent supervisor to employ against a deficient teacher, and in fact this Act is often used successfully against teachers who a principal simply doesn't like, for any of a million reasons. Don't forget: it's the local school board that hears any case under this Act, not some truly neutral adjudicator, and unless the superintendent has flatly screwed up on a clear and crucial fact issue (or the popular coach is being screwed), the school board is going to uphold the superintendent. Circuit Court review of such a board decision is on a very restrictive review basis — the Court does not hear the matter anew, and thus you're not regularly seeing Circuit Court reversals of school board decisions. . .

    This entire notion that this Act "protects" teachers is a bad joke. Teachers are fired right and left all the time, without sufficient substantive protection that only comes from a neutral adjudicator. Superintendents (and Johnny Key) want the ability to fire teachers on the spot with no process whatsoever, and no accountability for even a decently articulated reason, much less a proven one.

    The average person, even one who is otherwise interested in and concerned about the schools, has no idea whatsoever what really goes on with this law.

  • JakeTidmore
    November 2, 2018 at 4:07 p.m.

    Scapegoat:
    (n.) A scapegoat is an event person or object that is used to lay the blame on for all that goes wrong, regardless of the contributions of others. This will usually carry on until the scapegoat has gone, or has managed to successfully defend itself against the arguements presented to it.
    -
    The word comes from Judaism. During mass reconciliation the rabbi would bring a goat to the alter. The sins of the people would be absorbed into the goat, and it would then be killed, its' blood staining the alter until cleansed. This is what Jesus Christ reflected in his crucifixion, being a scapegoat.
    **
    From Psychology Today:
    The ego defence of displacement plays a role in scapegoating, in which uncomfortable feelings such as anger, frustration, envy, and guilt are displaced and projected onto another, often more vulnerable, person or group. The scapegoated target is then persecuted, providing the person doing the scapegoating not only with a conduit for his uncomfortable feelings, but also with pleasurable feelings of piety and self-righteous indignation. The creation of a villain necessarily implies that of a hero, even if both are purely fictional.
    -
    A ‘scapegoat’ usually implies a person or group, but the mechanism of scapegoating can also apply to non-human entities, whether objects, animals, or demons. Conversely, human scapegoats are to varying degrees dehumanized and objectified; some, such as witches in medieval Europe, are quite literally demonized. The dehumanization of the scapegoat makes the scapegoating more potent and less guilt inducing, and may even lend it a sort of pre-ordained, cosmic inevitability.

  • JakeTidmore
    November 2, 2018 at 4:24 p.m.

    Jack Schneider from an interview regarding his research on school quality and the resulting book:
    htt ps://w ww.edweek.o rg/ew/articles/2017/09/06/test-scores-dont-tell-the-whole-story.html
    **
    Excerpt:
    You argue that testing results are often more indicative of students' socioeconomic status than a school's quality, and that a testing culture creates stigmas harmful to student success—particularly for low-income students. How so?

    Students who start with all kinds of early advantages—not just material advantages, but the academic advantage of having two parents who are college-educated and are emphasizing education in the household and setting a tone and example—those carry into school. And students who have those parents will do better on standardized tests than their peers who don’t grow up in such households. When we look at proficiency scores, we are often seeing the effect not of the school, but of the household on that individual child. Quality-conscious parents with the resources to move, to choose a "good" school or school district, begin to move to particular districts and choose particular schools and bring with them their high-scoring students. And the opposite is true when the school is branded as low-performing. One way to break this cycle is to begin to measure things that do not align so closely with demographic variables.

  • JakeTidmore
    November 2, 2018 at 4:27 p.m.

    Evidenced-based commentary from The Conversation:
    htt p://theconversation.c om/students-test-scores-tell-us-more-about-the-community-they-live-in-than-what-they-know-77934
    **
    Excerpt:
    Although there are ideological disputes about the merits of standardized tests results, the science has become clearer. The results suggest standardized test results tell more about the community in which a student lives than the amount the student has learned or the academic, social and emotional growth of the student during a school year.

  • JakeTidmore
    November 2, 2018 at 4:32 p.m.

    I noted from the research I skimmed that one study found that changing principals (getting better leadership) produced better school scores. There's a better solution than "firing" teachers:
    ht tps://slate.c om/business/2012/07/how-to-improve-teaching-new-evidence-that-poor-teachers-can-learn-to-be-good-ones.html
    **
    Excerpt:
    The conversation about how to improve American education has taken on an increasingly confrontational tone. The caricature often presented in the press depicts hard-driving, data-obsessed reformers—who believe the solution is getting rid of low-performing teachers—standing off against unions—who don’t trust any teaching metric and care more about their jobs than the children they’re supposed to be educating.

    But in some ways the focus on jobs misses the point. As New York State Education Commissioner John King has pointed out, with the exception of urban hubs like New York and L.A., few school districts have the luxury of firing low-performing teachers with the knowledge that new recruits will line up to take their places.*

    If we take firing off the table, what else can be done to resolve America’s education crisis? The findings of several recent studies by psychologists, economists, and educators show that—despite many reformers’ claims to the contrary—it may be possible to make low-performing teachers better, instead of firing them. If these studies can be replicated throughout entire school systems and across the country, we may be at the beginning of a revolution that will build a better educational system for America.

  • JakeTidmore
    November 2, 2018 at 4:37 p.m.

    The real problem: Childhood poverty
    And wait until you see how bad the USA rates in comparison to other nations around the world. "Not good" is me just being nice about it. Anyway here is lot of charts and data backing up Mathbabe's blog commentary:
    ht tps://mathbabe.o rg/2014/08/29/the-bad-teacher-conspiracy/
    **
    Excerpt:
    The conclusion is that, unless you think bad teachers have somehow taken over poor schools everywhere and booted out the good teachers, and good teachers have taken over rich schools everywhere and booted out the bad teachers (which is supposed to be impossible, right?), poverty has much more of an effect than teachers.

    Just to clarify this reasoning, let me give you another example: we could blame bad journalists for lower rates of newspaper readership at a given paper, but since newspaper readership is going down everywhere we’d be blaming journalists for what is a cultural issue.

    Or, we could develop a process by which we congratulate specific policemen for a reduced crime rate, but then we’d have to admit that crime is down all over the country.

    I’m not saying there aren’t bad teachers, because I’m sure there are. But by only focusing on rooting out bad teachers, we are ignoring an even bigger and harder problem. And no, it won’t be solved by privatizing and corporatizing public schools. We need to address childhood poverty.

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