As we learned in recent weeks, the state of Massachusetts placed Dever Elementary School in receivership, with no benefit to the children. The Boston Globe ran a major story about the state’s failure: the company that took charge of the school had never run a school; it went through five principals in two years; teacher turnover was high. The school was not turned around. The state failed the children of Dever Elementary School.
But that’s no reason not to do it to another school and more children!
Our reader Christine Langhoff in Massachusetts reports on the latest plan to turnaround a struggling school. Please let me know, dear reader, if You are aware of a successful state takeover anywhere. I can’t think of any.
Christine Langhoff writes:
Despite what is obviously an egregious failure, whose casualties are the children used as guinea pigs in this experiment, the state of Massachusetts with its appointed department of education goes merrily on its reformy way.
Holyoke, Springfield and Southbridge are three of our poorest communities, which have very high ratios of English language learners and SWD’s. So it’s no surprise that MA DESE has targeted them for takeover, just as they have in Lawrence and Boston.
MA DESE took over the Holyoke Public Schools last year, so now they’re hiring TFA’s to do the job of all those teachers they turned out, including Gus Morales, president of the Holyoke teachers union.
This “news” article:
includes “Five questions about Teach for America answered:”, helpfully answered by TFA.
And in Springfield, MA, DESE has turned over another school to UP Academy.
On Friday afternoon (well known as a great time for a news dump), DESE issued its turnaround plan for the latest school system targeted for takeover, Southbridge, MA. Here are some of the key recommendations and “solutions”. This comes after many teachers and paraprofessionals have been notified that they have been terminated.
Merit pay based on the local edition of VAM – Roland “Two-Tier” Fryer is a member of the board, so perhaps he is due credit for this:
5. Revamp compensation approach: The district will revamp its approach to compensation to ensure that individual effectiveness, professional growth, and student academic growth are key factors in a professional compensation system and that employees have opportunities for additional responsibility and leadership. (See also Appendix A, III.)
A major goal is to attract teachers because:
“The most significant school-based factor in students’ learning is the quality of the teaching they receive. Southbridge is committed to attracting and retaining a caring, qualified, and highly competent workforce of teachers and leaders.
Strategy D: Use the Receiver’s authorities to lay the foundation for successful turnaround
1. Limit, Suspend, or Change Provisions in Collective Bargaining Agreements to Support Plan Priorities: The district will limit, suspend, or change provisions in collective bargaining agreements and employment contracts in order to achieve the goals of the Turnaround Plan. Further, the Receiver must have the ability to address issues as they arise, including making additional changes to collective bargaining agreements to maximize the rapid improvement of the academic performance of Southbridge students. Appendix A contains changes will take effect as of July 1, 2016, and must be incorporated into future collective bargaining agreements. The Receiver and/or the Commissioner, at their discretion, will initiate discussions and processes as appropriate pursuant to G.L. c. 69, § 1K. (See also Appendix A.)
2. Change employment contracts: Certain changes to employment contracts between the district and individual employees are necessary to achieve the goals of the Turnaround Plan. The Receiver must have the flexibility to choose and retain principals and other administrative staff who are effective leaders, have the appropriate skills, and bring focus and urgency in implementing the terms of the Turnaround Plan. Consequently, the end date for all employment contracts or agreements entered into with administrative staff members before the declaration of receivership on January 26, 2016, is changed to June 30, 2017. The Receiver may, at her discretion, extend any such employment contract or exercise the termination provisions of any contract. The changed end date supersedes any contrary provisions in any individual employment contract between the district and an individual employee. (See also Appendix A.)”
and because non-turnaround schools are required to provide 990 hours of instruction:
“As of the 2017-2018 school year, there will be a minimum of 1,330 hours of instruction for students K-8. (See also Appendix A, IV.)
The Receiver will establish the school calendar each year. (See also Appendix A, IV.)
All newly-hired teachers may be required to participate in a week-long teacher
orientation/induction program as part of their professional obligation without additional
compensation. (See also Appendix A, IV.)
Explore additional school calendar options to provide additional time for instruction and
enrichment, to reach the required minimum of 1,330 hours of instruction annually for students K-8. This may involve programming options during vacations, extended day, year-long opportunities, and summer school.”
So the plan is to attract the best teachers by taking away any contractual protections, changing the school calendar at will and having them work an extra 340 hours without compensation. I’m sure that’s a great plan.
I’m old enough to remember when educational decisions at the state level were made by educators and informed by research. This triumph of ideology is devastating to our poor communities and the children who live in them.