Delaware’s Teacher Hiring Report: What Do Districts Look For?

On April 11th, Dr. Shana Ricketts from the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware Dept. of Education presented a report on Delaware’s Talent Practices to the P-20 Council.  This report showcases what districts look for when hiring teachers in Delaware.  It is a very interesting look into the key hiring decisions for educators.

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“Teachers Have Such A Cushy Job”…Oh Really? One Delaware Teacher Tells All!

I wrote an article last night wishing more teachers in Delaware would write anonymous blogs.  The comments are coming in fast and furious on social media and on the article.  One teacher’s response deserved an article of its own.  Thank you Delaware Teacher!  I like this idea, and I would be more than happy to do the same for any teacher in the state!

Hey so here’s a thought: Give educators the opportunity to guest blog here. Like how Kilroy got you started. Then you might be able to hear from more folks. I’d also reach out directly to individuals you know and see if they’d like to submit something.
As far as a list of responsibilities, there is an excellent blog that I saw floating around on Facebook that really went into a great deal of detail about how teaching has changed over the 30+ years that person has been teaching. It is extremely comprehensive in terms of additional responsibilities.

Prior to making a list of my own, I want to make sure folks understand that I’m not complaining about working in my chosen profession. I’m not interested in being attacked by someone who thinks I’m “just bitching”, and yes, that has happened, online, on MY blog. So…

Educators are salaried employees, and that means we can be expected to work the job until our job responsibilities are complete. I’d like it noted for the record that, in my district at least, the union contract actually states this exact sentiment, that it is expected for educators to work outside the contractual hours.

I teach 3 classes and an enrichment course daily. I have 3 different grade levels, plus the mixed-grade enrichment, so that’s 4 separate courses I’m planning for on a daily basis. Currently I have a student load of over 210 spread across those courses, and in my discipline (elective course) there is no support person available to come in and work with the students who have special educational needs. Approximately 20% of my students have individualized education plans, with up to 1/3-1/2 of some classes with those particular individuals. Additionally, there are students with behavior plans, emotional support needs, and 504 plans that include such medical diagnoses as ADHD (I don’t have quick data on that percentage).

My courses are all hands-on, and I manage an 8,000 sq ft courtyard and have between 70 and 80 animals in the animal science program as well as wildlife habitat, vegetable gardens, fruit plants, and a small greenhouse. In my classroom I provide centers for students to work in when they finish early; these centers are in reading, art, science, and technology, and I created activities for each center that students complete as they work in the center.

On a normal day, I come into work 30-45 minutes early to get my room set up, copy materials, etc. I’m on hall duty for approximately 15 minutes, then the first class block starts. I’ve got 40 minutes of individual plan, then hall duty for 30 minutes twice a week, 70 minutes of individual plan twice a week, and 45-60 minutes of professional development with an additional 10-25 minutes of individual plan on the fifth day. After school I have hall duty again for about 10 minutes daily, then meetings three days a week. One of those meetings is about an hour in length while the other two are around 20-25 minutes each. That leaves me with four additional hours on a normal week between the end of the school day and the time I have to leave to pick my pre-k student up at his school. In a perfect week, I have about 11.50 hours between 6:15 am and 3:30 pm where I am at school with “free” time to plan, grade, etc.

I’m fine with my job duties, but it would be irresponsible to say that I have adequate time during the work day to get things done. Between the hall duties (good for the school), the peer learning time (good for the teachers), meetings (good for the staff), parent contacts (good for the students and families), and other things we get regularly called upon to do, it can be difficult to take the entire time allocated for work and give it to work. I’ve got IEP meetings, behavior plan meetings, TONS of emails to answer, guest speakers to arrange, trips for my student clubs to plan, evaluation system goals to write, lesson reflections to complete, student work samples to hang in the classroom and hallway, essential questions and standards and agendas to write on the board every day for every separate class, a positive behavior support system to maintain, attendance to enter into the computer (within the first 10-15 minutes of class, while also teaching), grades to update and enter electronically as well as back up manually, supplies such as books and paper and scissors to inventory and maintain, conversations with other educators about the students we share to help support them in our classrooms, missing and makeup work to track down, and data data data to enter into multiple systems. Heaven forbid I need to write a behavior referral for a student, because that entails multiple actions across multiple platforms in addition to calling home and conferencing with the student and all the things I did prior to needing to complete the referral.

Many of these are things educators have been doing for a long time. And that’s fine. The difference really is all the initiatives that we now have to follow. I can’t just write down my lesson topic on a piece of paper and go. I have to show my bellringer activity, my activating strategy, 3-4 transitions throughout the class, how I’m differentiating for all my students, what in-depth questions I’m asking to evaluate learning, what my formative assessment will be, where the lesson ties in to the overall unit and course, what standards the lesson is based on (my content standards plus math and ELA common core plus any science and social studies), and the level of rigor. We have a lot of professional development on our own in addition to the ones we get in groups.

So yes, over time the responsibilities have grown and the complexity of meeting the requirements have grown.
A side note about Amplify: Yes, it is a company. However, that term is being used across the educational environment to describe a series of tests. There’s the Smarter Balanced test, the STAR test, SRI, etc. Amplify has a product that gets used, but instead of using its full name every time we refer to it, we simply say “Amplify”. Not trying to be touchy, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone respond to an educator with that “Amplify is a company, not a test” comment.

And now that my lunch “half hour” is over…

We Need Teacher Blogs In Delaware!

As I look at my Delaware blogger list, I see fewer posts by many on the Delaware blogs.  I see very few from teachers in Delaware.  I keep wondering why this is.  My first assumption is they are afraid of retribution for what they write.  Which is why we need Delaware teachers to write anonymous blogs.  We need to hear things from their perspective, the good and the bad.  What is working?  What isn’t?  How are students REALLY doing in the classroom?  How do they do on actual classroom assignments?  What are the concerns and fears teachers have?  How do they feel about Common Core and Smarter Balanced now that we are waist-deep in it?  This voice is dwindling in Delaware and people need to hear it.

So I am calling out for any teachers in Delaware to start anonymous blogs.  I welcome all education blogs in this state.  Kilroy doesn’t post as much these days, but that is for a good reason.  Kavips will sometimes post 10 articles in 2 days, and then nothing.  Delaware Way used to write an awesome collection of education blog stories from the past week.  Transparent Christina rarely writes new material these days.  Where has Steve Newton’s voice been?  What happened to Minding My Matters, Fixdeldoe, and theseventhtype?  I understand many of these people have real lives with things going on, but an occasional post about different viewpoints and opinions is missed.  I saw many blogs start in the past year and then they disappeared.

Blogging is free and it takes time, but it is also an essential part of today’s media.  Bloggers are the Wild West, able to post stories along with their opinions.  The audience is there, but they need YOU!  State Rep. Kim Williams is one of the busiest persons I know, but she recently started an excellent blog called Delaware First State.  Christina CBOC member Brian Stephan of Those in Favor now writes for Delaware Liberal.  So what say you Delaware teachers?  Care to give it a whirl?  Please use WordPress so I can reblog your stuff!  And I would love to hear from Kent County and Sussex County teachers!

Mike Matthews Nukes Governor Markell & DOE’s False Methodology

Mike Matthews just posted this on Facebook, and he is absolutely correct.  It is NOT about the teachers Jack.  But you already know that, don’t you.  It’s just easy for your game plan if people think that!

Some individuals truly believe that the *best* teachers are at schools where students perform great on the state test. I have never and will never buy into this belief that so many ‪#‎edreformers‬ (and our governor and Department of Education) hold.

As full-time president, I get to visit lots of schools on a regular basis. I’ve visited a majority of Red Clay’s elementary schools. When I tell teachers I taught at Warner Elementary, the response from a few dozen of them has been “Really?? I started my career at Warner!” or “I started my career at Shortlidge!” or “I started my career in the city!”

I’ve asked some a follow-up: “Why did you leave?” And most have given similar answers: “I never felt we got the support that we required to address student needs” or “I couldn’t balance having my own family and continuing to work until 7 or 8 at night” or “Classroom management was a huge issue and support was limited.”

So, according to our Governor and DoE the problem with the inner-city schools and low test scores is poor administration and teachers. But many of the teachers — a good portion of whom started their careers at inner-city schools — who are now working at “successful” (based on standardized test scores) suburban schools are having their students perform magnificently on the test.

So what’s the problem here? Do the teachers at “low-performing” city schools suck? Should they all have to reapply for their jobs? Because it’s very likely that the same “low-performing” city teacher today will in two or three years be a “high-performing” suburban teacher after they’ve chosen to leave the city school because of any number of stressors.

How do we get these ALREADY GREAT teachers in our city schools to STAY so that communities and relationships can be BUILT and SUSTAINED?

I continue to believe that the answer is easier than we all make it out to be, but too few people are willing to confront those tough questions and have the courageous conversations needed to move forward.

Delaware Joint Finance Committee Approves Step Increases For Teachers

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee approved a motion to approve step increases for Delaware teachers.  This item in the Delaware budget was on the chopping block, but luckily the JFC voted wisely on this motion.  While the increases vary based on years of  experience and levels of education (i.e. bachelors, masters, etc.), it averages around $500 a year for the average teachers.

Congratulations Delaware Teachers!

Rodel & State Board of Education Stop DSEA From Using Questions In TELL Delaware Survey, DOE Postpones Until 2016

Before I get to this story, I think it’s high time the Rodel Foundation got OUT of education in Delaware.  And since the Delaware DOE seems to be a clone of them anyways, they can go too!

The TELL Delaware Survey, scheduled to start tomorrow, has been postponed until next year.  Why?  Because the DOE and Rodel didn’t like questions the Delaware Educators Association wanted to put on the survey.

Why should the Rodel Foundation have ANY input on teacher surveys?  This is utterly ridiculous.  This “non-profit”, where their Executive Director made $283,000 in 2013, has been more of a disturbance in Delaware education than anything else.  But anyone who voted for Jack Markell as Governor should have known it was Rodel and Markell that won the Governor race.  Who wants to be Paul Herdman will be the next Secretary of Education?  I know, he doesn’t qualify, but I’m sure Markell would put in an executive order to bring in his boy.  Rodel, get the hell out of Delaware!

This is the same survey that was supposed to come out last year, but DSEA advised the DOE the results would be horrible cause of the priority schools initiative.  Who does the State Board of Education answer to?  I guess Rodel, whenever they call.  Maybe aside from board meetings, the State Board needs to record ALL their meetings, even the ones with lobbyist non-profits.

You can read it all here:

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May 12, 2015

Dear DSEA Member,

Last month we informed you that TELL Delaware, an anonymous statewide survey of licensed school-based educators to assess teaching conditions at the school, district and state level, would be opening on May 13th.  Early this week, the Delaware Department of Education (“DDOE”) announced that TELL Delaware would be delayed until 2016.

So what happened?

Remember last month we told you that prior to agreeing to participate in TELL Delaware, DSEA, DASA and the Superintendents insisted that the Statement of Partners include language guaranteeing that TELL Delaware data would not be used by DDOE for accountability purposes.  After several months of discussion, it was agreed that the Statement of Partners would include the following language:

“Coalition Partners agree that data collected from TELL Delaware will be used solely for purposes authorized and agreed to in this Statement and will not be utilized by the Delaware Department of Education in any form of teacher, specialist, assistant principal or principal evaluation and/or school/district accountability without prior approval of all Coalition Partners.  In regards to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), any use of TELL Delaware data by LEAs for such purposes shall be determined by the LEAs and shall be consistent with and subject to the terms of any collective bargaining agreement or individual contract to the extent they address such usage.”

We also told you that DSEA, DASA and the Superintendents insisted upon including additional questions to assess educator perception on the impact of DOE/RTTT initiatives on student achievement, DOE responsiveness to educator and principal concerns, and those working conditions that would motivate an educator to work in or transfer to a high needs school.  Again, after several months of discussion with DDOE, we reached agreement to include the following questions:

 

The following initiatives have had a positive impact on student achievement:

SD

D

A

SA

DK

The revised teacher/principal evaluation systems

Common Core State Standards

Professional Learning Communities

Delaware Talent Cooperative

Common Ground for the Common Core

The state school accountability system used to rank schools and identify priority and focus schools

Professional Development provided by DOE

DOE makes a sustained effort to address teacher/principal concerns about:

 

SD

D

A

SA

DK

The teacher/principal evaluation system

The amount of time spent on student testing

The use of student testing data

Professional Development needed for Common Core State Standards implementation

The state school accountability system used to rank schools and identify priority and focus schools

Alternative compensation systems

The following teaching condition(s) would strongly influence my decision to teach in/transfer to a high needs school:

SD

D

A

SA

DK

Effective school leadership

Teacher leadership opportunities

Community support and involvement

Additional Compensation

Access to facilities and resources that support learning

DOE technical and financial support

Instructional innovation is encouraged and supported

Time to teach and plan

Student conduct is well managed

High quality professional development is provided

On April 17th, DDOE sent an e-mail to the TELL Delaware partners advising them that it had worked with the TELL Delaware Advisory Committee (comprised of DSEA and DASA) to address concerns about the customization of questions and the Statement of Partners.   DDOE also advised them that the 2015 administration of the survey was slated to begin on May 13th, 2015.  

 

In response, several partners – most notably the State Board of Education and the Rodel Foundation – raised concerns with the inclusion of the additional questions requested by DSEA and DASA.  Efforts to reach an agreement among the partners failed and therefore DDOE decided to delay TELL Delaware until 2016.  While willing to consider changes to the wording of the questions, DSEA and DASA insisted upon their inclusion in TELL Delaware.  Without the questions, DSEA and DASA would not continue to support TELL Delaware.  Looking forward, while DSEA and DASA are hopeful that TELL Delaware will happen in 2016, we will continue to insist upon the inclusion of questions similar to those listed above.  We thank you for your time and patience throughout this process.  We will provide future updates as additional details become available.

 

Yours in Solidarity,

JEFFTASCHNER.tif

Jeff Taschner

DSEA Executive Director