Saturday, April 30, 2011

Restocking teachers: The math doesn’t add up

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by Dennis Van Roekel, a 23-year math teacher at Paradise
Valley High School in Phoenix who is now president of the National Education
Association, the country’s largest education union.

By Dennis Van Roekel

“Last in, first out” (LIFO) is a term commonly used in merchandise control.
It describes how stores stock products. With napkins and paper plates, you push
the old items back to make room for new items of the same kind – so the last
items stocked are the first items sold. For perishable goods you push old items
to the front, so they’re the first selected by shoppers – milk and eggs are
restocked this way.

LIFO is for inventory. Yet somewhere between the Kroger and the classroom, it
became confused with teacher experience and layoff policies. Teachers are now
viewed as “perishable”— the longer they’ve taught and the more money
they earn, the faster they need to be “restocked” for fresher, less
expensive goods. But teachers don’t come with “sell by” dates, and it’s
an insult to punish them for their years of service.

Some people say layoffs are an “opportunity” to get rid of underperforming
teachers. So let me be clear: If a teacher isn’t qualified, he or she
shouldn’t be in the classroom. There are procedures in place in every school
district to terminate unqualified or incompetent teachers, and administrators
shouldn’t wait for a budget crisis to remove them. The fair dismissal process
should be transparent, efficient and fair. We owe it to everyone concerned –
especially students – to resolve cases as quickly as possible.

Now that’s settled, let’s deal with the real issue. Layoffs caused by
budget cuts are about money, and experienced teachers cost more — until you
take an honest look at the high costs associated with turnover from a passing
parade of inexperienced teachers.

It’s extremely expensive to keep hiring and training new teachers. And these
problems are worst in precisely the schools that most desperately need good,
proven teachers.

So for the anti-seniority crowd, tell me again how fewer experienced teachers
in schools that serve the poorest students is the answer? Do we really want an
endless churn in our classrooms? How many people who dismiss the value of
experience would send their own children to a school staffed entirely by
first-year teachers?

Teaching is a complex profession, and experience matters. I taught math for 23
years, and I know without a doubt I was a much better teacher in year 20 than
year 2. In no other profession is experience deemed a liability instead of an

These are tough economic times for school districts, and no matter how you
slice it, layoffs are difficult for everyone involved. It might save a few
dollars in the short run by axing experienced teachers and retaining newcomers
who earn less, but in the long run it’s our children who will pay the
steepest price.

Let’s do the math.... Nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession
in the first five years, and schools lose 100 percent of their investment.
Turnover rates in high-poverty districts are 2x as high as rates in wealthier
school districts.

Research shows costs for “recruiting, hiring, and training a replacement
teacher” is as high as $17,000 per teacher, leading to billions of dollars
spent each year replacing teachers who left the classroom.

The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future published a cost
calculator to help administrators, parents and members of the community
estimate a school’s expenses on teacher turnover.

Continue the conversation at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New NAACP report ties state spending on prisons to low education achievement

SF-Based Business and Philanthropy Leader Mitch Kapor Joins NAACP, Others in Bipartisan Call to Reduce Incarceration

New NAACP report ties state spending on prisons to low education achievement; California data available in report
Multi-city billboard campaign, including in Los Angeles, will kick off regional efforts to reform criminal justice policy, influence state budgets 

(Washington, DC) – On Thursday, April 7, at 1:30 p.m. EST at the National Press Club, business and philanthropy leader Mitchell Kapor will join the NAACP and an unlikely, bipartisan alliance, including representatives of law enforcement, to draw attention to the link between state spending on prisons and low education achievement.
In addition to NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, speakers will include Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education under the Bush Administration; Mike Jimenez of Corrections USA, representative of over 80,000 prison guards nationwide and president of the nation’s largest prison guard union  (California Correctional Peace Officers Association); and Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corporation and founding investor in Second Life, among other ventures. Also expected at the news conference are David Keene, former Chairman of the American Conservative Union; and Pat Nolan of the Prison Fellowship, who has worked closely with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to establish the conservative Right On Crime coalition.
The press conference is timed with the release of an NAACP report that examines escalating levels of prison spending and the resulting impact on state budgets and our nation’s children. “Misplaced Priorities: Under Educate, Over Incarcerate” uncovers a disturbing connection between needlessly high incarceration rates and poorly performing schools. Between 1987 and 2007, state spending on incarceration grew by 127 percent while investment in higher education increased only 21 percent. Since 1988, California’s spending on prisons has risen 20 times faster than on higher education.
 “Misplaced Priorities” tracks the steady shift of state resources away from education and toward the criminal justice system. Researchers found that over-incarceration impacts vulnerable, often minority, populations and destabilizes communities. For instance, in Houston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, over 65% of the lowest-performing schools are in neighborhoods with the highest rates of incarceration. The report offers recommendations that will help policymakers downsize prisons and shift those savings to education budgets.
A promotional billboard campaign will accompany the report’s release, kicking off regional efforts to influence state budget decisions and change state criminal justice policies. Billboards will be placed around the country – including at West Century Blvd. in Los Angeles – featuring jarring statistics about our nation’s criminal justice system.
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