Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Recession may be escalating coming teacher shortage

Link to 10/10/11 ARTICLE

By Tom Chorneau the CAPITOL WEEKLY

Less than two years have passed since demographic trends touched off fears of teacher shortage in California occurring when an expected spike in educator retirements would meet growing student populations and a drop off in new recruits entering the profession.

Those trends now appear to be easing in the short-term, but a longer perspective suggests the conditions may actually be escalating due to the influence of the ongoing economic recession.

According to a report to be delivered today to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the number of new students entering teacher training programs in California has not just declined – it has plummeted 39 percent over the past five years.

Meanwhile, the latest population projections show that despite the state’s economic downturn – overall enrollment in public schools is still expected to climb by 200,000 students through 2019.

Adding uncertainty to the mix are the 100,000 or so California teachers that are age 50 or older – the first cohort of which was expected to have retired by now but anecdotal evidence suggests that might not be happening.

Local reports indicate that many veteran teachers are putting off retirement. Many are dealing with lost jobs among family members; others with the plunge in real estate nest eggs; some may even face layoffs themselves.

For the short-term, analysts say, there would seem to be little concern about a teacher shortage.

But the bigger question is what happens the moment the economy turns around and a surge of retirements hit just as demand for new teachers starts to spike.

The fact is, however, no one is quite sure what to expect.

Patrick Shields, a researcher whose work in early 2010 raised concerns about the status of teacher preparation, said under normal economic conditions there would be an expectation of a teacher shortage.

“We would expect to see a shortage because fewer teachers are entering the profession while the number of students is increasing,” said Shields, director of the Center for Education Policy and Program Manager for School Reform at SRI International, a think tank based in Menlo Park.

“However, in the current fiscal climate, districts are not hiring new teachers but rather allowing class sizes to grow,” he explained. “Consequently, in the short term over the next year or so, we do not expect to see much in terms of a shortage.”

“What will happen after that, we really don’t know,” he said.

The report scheduled to be made before the CTC today notes that California’s teacher preparation program had grown significantly over the past 20 years to accommodate a spike in student population during the early 1990s and more recently the move to reduce class sizes.

The past five years has been a different story as enrollment has declined by nearly 24,000 candidates or 39 percent. In just the two year period ending in 2009-10, the number of participants in teacher training has dropped over 13 percent.

Marilyn Errett, an administrator with the CTC’s government relations office, said the array of economic and demographic conditions makes it difficult to plan for the coming need for California schools.

“Several years ago researchers were predicting a teacher shortage, no one knew, of course, that there was going to be an economic meltdown,” she said. “Things are very unpredictable.”

An answer to the question of teacher supply and demand is critical. Satisfying a sudden demand for qualified classroom teachers is not something quickly resolved. It took the state years, for instance, to respond to an almost overnight need for teachers when the class-size reduction program began in the late 1990s.

And trying to prepare now is probably not an option.

“It’s very difficult to boost a program when you can’t guarantee that someone’s going to have a job or that they won’t be laid off,” Errett said.

To read the CTC report on teacher preparation click here:
Ed’s Note: Cabinet Report’s Mary Gardner and Kim Beltran contributed to this article. Cabinet Report is the only comprehensive news service covering K-12 education issues in California. To subscribe visit Registration required. Selected stories have been shared with Capitol Weekly with permission from School Innovations & Advocacy, owner and publisher. To contact reporter Tom Chorneau:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mutual Matching - Response to Jill Tucker’s article in the SF Chronicle

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by OEA President Betty Olson-Jones

Jill Tucker’s article in the Sunday, January 22, 2012 San Francisco Chronicle, “Matching teachers to jobs,” misses the mark in some key areas. Since the leadership of OEA was not interviewed for this story, we would like clarify some misstatements and shed light on some confusion.

We agreed to a “mini-pilot” of the “mutual matching” process in the fall when five first and second year teachers were “consolidated” from their teaching assignments due to budgetary reasons and class size increases, but only on the condition that if the affected teachers could not be “mutually matched,” they would be placed according to seniority. As Marian Marx, one of these teachers, states in the article, “she didn’t give high praise to mutual matching. ‘It’s pitting colleagues against each other,’ she said, adding she sees value in seniority. ‘I think experience makes you good in many ways.’ She also worried about potential bias in a selection process and that displaced veteran teachers would have to compete for a job late in their careers.”

This is precisely why we have continued to resist changing our current transfer language, while at the same time looking for ways to improve the process. We agree that the current system needs changes, and have argued for specific reforms for years. It is positive that some of these have been incorporated in the “mutual matching” conversation, including:

1. Use average instead of actual teachers’ salaries in the transfer process. (Under Oakland’s current “Results Based Budgeting” system, experienced teachers are often considered less desirable because they cost more than new ones.)

2. Provide a clear, thorough profile of every school to teachers so they are fully aware of expectations, climate, schedule, etc. before making a selection.

3. Encourage teachers to visit schools and meet with staffs so they can determine where they feel most comfortable and so that receiving staffs have a role in the process.

4. Give incentives to teachers who provide early notice of their plans to separate from the district so more vacancies are known before the end of the school year.

It is our belief that changes like these will go a long way towards helping teachers find a “good fit” without being seen as a financial burden.

So why no mention of this in the article? What’s behind the district’s push to eliminate seniority as a factor in assignments? By not acknowledging that we have been open to making needed changes and have contributed the above elements to the discussion, the district is trying to sway public opinion in its favor by misrepresenting the facts, belittling the role of experience as outlined in our mutually-binding contract, and failing to even mention the areas that have contributed to the status quo and which make it so hard for teachers to move within the district. The underlying narrative follows the current push of “corporate reformers” like Eli Broad, Bill Gates, and Michelle Rhee: get rid of seniority in the transfer process and replace it with a “business model” – let the marketplace rule, let competition reign. That is the antithesis of what is good for our students and our teachers.

The article starts with:

“In the world outside public education, people apply for a job they want, interview with their potential boss, compete against other applicants and are ultimately selected if they look like a good fit for the position. It doesn’t work that way in public education.”

What supposedly happens:

“In schools, teachers do all the normal things to get hired, but when it comes to placement, seniority is what counts, not the perfect fit. The teacher with the longest tenure in a district gets first dibs on any available job at a school, with the principal – the school’s boss – getting little or no input.”

What really happens in Oakland Unified School District:

Prospective teachers apply, including candidates enrolled in the “Teach Tomorrow in Oakland” program, which asks for a 5-year commitment to teaching and recruits primarily local candidates of color. Others come from local credential programs at colleges such as Holy Names, Mills, Patten, San Francisco State, CSU East Bay. Many have already done student teaching. They have to compete with candidates from alternative programs such as Teach for America and Oakland Teaching Fellows, where The New Teacher Project charges $2-5,000 each to place inexperienced recruits (5-6 weeks of “teaching experience”) in the “hardest to fill vacancies,” such as Special Education, math and science.

Fact: Over the past five years, Oakland has hired 2-300 new teachers each year. Contrary to the allegation that “The teacher with the longest tenure in a district gets first dibs on any available job at a school, with the principal – the school’s boss – getting little or no input,” these new teachers were placed in vacancies that were not filled by any of the 2600 teachers in Oakland, even though a number of current employees applied for a “voluntary” transfer. So what happened? Teachers who want to transfer are rarely granted their requests, since it’s ultimately up to the principals at those sites. All the site administrators have to do is acknowledge that they “considered” the transfer applicant; they are under NO obligation to accept them! It’s a well-known secret that principals often “hold onto” vacancies, denying current teachers the opportunity to transfer and saving vacancies for new, inexperienced teachers. And yet not a single principal has been disciplined for “hiding vacancies.” OEA has long been a proponent of allowing teachers to transfer if they wish to, both so they can seek a “good fit” and so that schools can achieve a better mix of new and experienced teachers.

When it comes to placement, seniority outweighs other considerations for some specific situations only – teachers who are being displaced because of school closures, teachers who’ve been “consolidated” from their positions due to decrease in enrollment or lack of funds, teachers who are returning from leave. Teachers from these categories (also called “priority placements”) select from a vacancy list and are placed according to credentials, qualifications, and seniority (and by the way, teachers don’t have “tenure,” but “permanent status” and due process rights). They are the only ones who doget first dibs on any available job at a school.” This includes teachers who want to follow their students to a new school (as long as vacancies are created). OEA believes strongly that experience is important, and that some stability for students faced with losing their school and their teachers trumps the search for a “perfect fit.”

Final fact: According to the district’s own data, 72.8% of new teachers who began in Oakland in 2003 had left by 2008. Apparently it wasn’t a “good fit” for them. We would do well to ruminate on these sorry statistics and figure out a way to change them, rather than go after our veteran, experienced teachers. Some ideas: pair new teachers with veterans, mentor and support them, stop relying on alternative certification programs and support residencies (as in medical school) as a way of helping to prepare teachers for this incredibly challenging, rewarding, important work. There are many things we can do to change the current conditions. Let’s not look to business for the answers; let’s look within our profession and our community.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mutual Matching and the “Four Autonomies”

Where did it come from? What’s the good, the bad, and the ugly?

NB: This is not a simple issue that can be argued in a sound bite, as we have been forced to do at recent Board of Education meetings. It is critical that we understand the underlying issues and assumptions, and that we act in the overall interests of our members and our students. Teaching is about collaboration, finding ways to work together despite our differences, and trying to build community and relationships with all students and teachers at our sites. It shouldn’t be about competition!

Oakland teachers are being treated to a full court press on “mutual matching,” beginning with Brigitte Marshall’s presentation to the Board of Education on December 14, 2011, Tony Smith’s editorial to the Tribune on January 10, 2012 (“Students thrive when teachers paired with right school”), site administrators forwarding glowing descriptions of mutual matching to staffs and urging them to take the (very misleading) survey. GO Public Schools is right in the mix, sending letters and videos urging our members to get on the train.

Despite the glowing rhetoric, the devil is in the details. Why the big push by the district, GO Public Schools, and even some of our teachers? At a time when we still have comprehensive high schools with class size overages and schools without basic staff support and resources, why is the district spending an inordinate amount of staff time, resources, and money to push their proposal and paint OEA as the obstacle? Simply put – we have something they want, and they’re mounting a campaign to get it through community pressure, doing an end run around the bargaining process.

Don’t be fooled – scratch the surface and it’s an attempt to get rid of seniority in our contractual transfer rights, under the guise of “abandon(ing) our nostalgia for practices unsuited to the current challenge” (Tribune editorial). In doing so, the district is following the national education “deform” line that it’s “bad teachers” to blame for the problems in public education -- not lack of funding, resources, institutional racism, or respect for our profession – and that this can be resolved through letting teachers compete in the marketplace for their assignments.

There are aspects of “mutual matching” that are worthy of consideration, including a number of ideas first proposed by OEA in our conversations with the district (see Background at the end) – in particular removing actual teachers’ salaries from the equation. So what’s wrong with the statement that “a system that seeks to pair teachers with the right school must be a collaborative one where each party chooses the other”? Don’t we all want to “strengthen school communities by involving them in the process of building a faculty”?

Put yourself in the shoes of one of the 66 teachers in the five schools up for closure this year, many of them experienced educators who have worked in Oakland Unified for years. Or consider teachers in the two schools seeking to convert to charters (although denied by the Board of Education, the schools will go to the County Office of Education to pursue this) who aren’t interested in becoming “at will” employees?

Article 12 of the contract between OEA/OUSD gives all of these teachers the right to choose a position from among vacancies according to credentials, qualifications, and seniority.

This is not popular with many principals, who want to have complete control over who they hire and go to great lengths to hide vacancies every year. Under Results-Based Budgeting, there has been a huge disincentive to seek out experienced teachers because they cost too much.

What “mutual matching” would do is to toss all of these displaced teachers into a “Talent Pool” with teachers seeking a voluntary transfer. In this plan, all would have the opportunity to visit schools and staffs so they could make a selection of 5-10 choices. (Where would all this money come from to make this happen??) Sites would do the same. Then they would be “matched” according to “best fit.” In short, the existing priority placement process would be turned into a competition among teachers, with newer teachers competing with more experienced, teachers from closing schools competing with voluntary transfers. Somehow all of this would shake out in the free marketplace of what constitutes a “good fit.” But on what basis is a “good fit” determined? Do you know someone will be a “good fit” without working with them? How can anyone be sure that factors such as test scores, age and experience, cost to the school/district, race, ethnicity, union activism, gender, sexual preference, size, etc. don’t bias decisions?

And what about teachers who aren’t a “match” in this variation of “speed dating”? They would go into another round of “mutual matching,” and if they still didn’t find a match, they’d be “counseled” – possibly into retirement or some other position in the district. How can anyone be sure this isn’t a way to push veteran teachers out of the district?

Background to the current debate

For the past few years we’ve been having conversations with the district aimed at finding a better process for doing “priority placements.” Here’s how the process usually goes: teachers displaced (through school closures, consolidations, involuntary transfers) select up to five schools where there are vacancies, and then HR and OEA sit in a room and place them according to credentials, qualifications, and seniority. We agree it needs to be more transparent, and especially want displaced teachers to have more information before making their selections. But in our discussions with the district, OEA has been clear that in the absence of any other objective criterion for placement, we will not give up seniority rights when making assignments. Allowing teachers and school sites to search for a “good fit” is very subjective, and could easily lead to discrimination based on age, race, union activity, gender, sexual preference, etc. Who could prove otherwise?

Where we agree

There are aspects of the “mutual matching” idea that OEA would agree with, some of them ideas that we have been pushing for years. These include:

1. Taking actual teachers’ salaries out of the equation so experienced teachers aren’t seen as less desirable than new, less expensive teachers;

2. Having every school be entirely transparent about its expectations and vision so displaced teachers have full information when selecting a school, and therefore more opportunity to find their own “best fit;”

3. Giving teachers time to visit schools so they aren’t making uninformed decisions when selecting a school;

4. Having consequences for principals who “hide vacancies;”

5. Encouraging teachers who plan to separate from the district to indicate their intentions early so that the pool of vacancies is greater;

6. Use a form of “mutual matching” with voluntary transfers and new hires so school staffs (not just principals) are involved in staff selection.


Get educated and get involved!

OEA Members – Attend the Open Forum on Mutual Matching and the “Four Autonomies” on January 26th, 4:30-6:30pm, at the OEA Center (or a larger venue as needed)! These are complex issues, and they’re being raised in various guises throughout the country. We can’t respond if we aren’t fully informed and educated.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

You Did It! Melissa is covered!


In just a few short hours, so many of you responded that our friend and colleague Melissa Ring will be covered until the end of the school year! In fact, there were more than enough days offered (close to 100!), so we will be contacting you within the next week or two only if we need your donation. You can expect to receive a simple form by mail indicating you are donating one day of sick leave to Melissa. Just return it to us at OEA, and we'll take care of the rest.
For those who wondered, this is separate from your one time, one-day donation to the Catastrophic Leave Bank. Members who have donated to the bank are eligible, if approved, for fully paid sick leave after all other paid leave has been exhausted. (See Article 11.6 of our contract for a full explanation.) In Melissa's case, since she was not in the bank, she was not eligible for this benefit. Be sure to remind your colleagues to sign up for this important OEA benefit if they have not already done so. Application forms will be available again next September, and the only qualification is that you have at least 21 days of accrued sick leave.

On behalf of Melissa, thank you again! Your generosity is truly inspiring. It is wonderful to know that we have each other's backs, and then when one of us is in need, we will rally around. That's really what a union is all about.

With gratitude,
Betty Olson-Jones, President
Oakland Education Association

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mutual Matching ( or involuntary transfers)

Go HERE to print the article below
by Tony Smith


All of Oakland’s children need to have a quality teacher in every classroom. Teachers are a precious resource. They bring their individual skills, talents and abilities to the inspiring work of educating our young people. Teachers are not interchangeable cogs in a machine, defined only by their credentials.

To ensure that we build and support Community Schools where children thrive because teachers are supported and positioned to be successful, we MUST pay attention to how we match and assign teacher skills and abilities. Successful schools are vibrant communities, carefully and lovingly crafted by the collaborative efforts of children, parents, teachers and administrators. Successful schools build themselves from the inside out and need to have the opportunity to thoughtfully participate in identifying new faculty members who are well suited to the priorities, philosophies, climate and culture of the school.

Objectives of a Mutual Matching Process:

· Ensure a quality teacher who is well suited to the culture, climate and priorities of the school site in every classroom, for every student in Oakland.
· Honor and respect teachers as education professionals.
· Change the perception and reception of consolidated, displaced and voluntary transfer teachers.
· Increase retention of teachers who seek new assignments for a variety of different reasons.
· Offer real assignment flexibility through the voluntary transfer process.
· Eliminate hidden vacancies and reduce the pressure/necessity for precautionary lay off noticing.
· Strengthen effective school communities by supporting their involvement in proactively building collaborative faculties.
· Increase teacher job satisfaction.
· Successfully place all displaced and voluntary transfer teachers to the mutual satisfaction of teachers and receiving school sites without the need to displace temporary teachers.

Structure and Process Details

What follows is a draft structure and process for implementing Mutual Matching in OUSD. Its purpose is to support a more detailed conversation on how to reach our objectives. It is not a formal proposal, but the outline of one way to reach our objectives. This draft has evolved and will continue to evolve as we work with OEA and others to ensure our objectives are attained.

Facilitated Mutual Matching – A process for assignment of voluntary transfers, and teachers in the Talent Pool who seek new assignments as a result of consolidation, school closure or return from leave of absence.

Step 1 (Mar – May)
· All teachers in the Talent Pool identify up to five (5) preferences among known vacancies and are placed based on the assignment factors with seniority as a tiebreaker.
Step 2 (May – Jun)
· If any vacancies exist in a credential area after teachers in the Talent Pool are placed in Step 1, voluntary transfers and new hires are possible for known vacancies
Round 1 (Mar 12th – Apr 6th proposed)
· All teachers may participate in a facilitated mutual matching process as part of a Talent Pool.
· Teachers and school communities are provided multiple opportunities to meet and learn about each other.
· Teachers and schools each complete preference forms indicating a minimum of five (5) and a maximum of ten (10) schools/teachers where they believe there would be a good fit.
· Human Resources facilitates Round 1 matches with the goals to maximize the overall number of matches made and ensure the best match for teachers and school communities.
· Where a school community matches with more than one teacher for a vacancy, seniority will be a tiebreaker, except in a situation where to do so undermines OUSD and OEA shared objectives in agreeing to facilitated mutual matching.
· School communities may make external hires only in hard-to-staff areas during Round 1 (e.g. Math, Science, Spanish as foreign language, PE, Special Education).
Round 2 (Apr 9th – May)
· Schools with vacancies and teachers remaining in need of a new assignment will participate in Round 2.
· Teachers will receive personalized support from Human Resources and the commitment to identify an assignment or other appropriate outcome.
· Human Resources will review the placement rate and other information from Round 1 to determine if any additional subject areas may be opened to external hires.
· Actual salaries and benefits used
· Teachers in the Talent Pool singled-out in process
· No consistent information provided to teachers or school communities
· Average salaries and benefits used.
· All teachers may participate in Round 1.
· Matching information options:
- Two-page professional profile for each teacher and each school community – support provided for preparation
- Up to five (5) days of paid time for teachers to visit school communities
- Opportunity for school communities to visit teachers for classroom observations
- Schools appoint Community Ambassadors available speak with interested teachers
- School Showcase – brings together school representatives and Round 1 teachers in group setting
· Suspected ‘hidden’ vacancies limit teachers’ options, risk unnecessary layoff notices and prolong the entire staffing process
· No incentive to notify of separation prior to June 30
· Coordinated effort increases available vacancies:
- Cash incentive offered to teachers who submit completed separation paperwork to HR by March 1st (may offer lower amount for later submission prior to another specified date).
- Access to Mutual Matching itself creates disincentive for hidden vacancies.
- District leadership and OEA align communication efforts on impact of hidden vacancies on risk of layoffs and prolonged staffing process.
- In collaboration with OEA, District leadership, OEA site representatives, HR, Fiscal Services, REXOs/NEXOs and the Superintendent ensure accountability for exposing vacancies
· No formal collaborative review of process or outcomes
· Establish joint review committee to meet at the end of school year (June) and early October to review process and make recommendations for future
· HR to gather and share information on number of placements, number of matches, turnover (District and Site), feedback on process, etc.
· Joint review committee to provide written summary of process for dissemination to teachers, administrators and community stakeholders
· Joint review committee to make recommendations for incorporation in future bargaining and implementation.