Last week I wrote about the Oakland school district administration and Oakland Education Association returning to the bargaining table after the passage of Proposition 30, a state tax measure that spared the school district from massive, midyear state funding cutbacks.
Readers had much to say about what they hoped to see in the new contract, beyond the question of compensation. (Teachers have asked for a 4 percent raise.) They debated whether and how to reward outstanding teachers, as the district's proposal calls for the creation of a "career ladder" for educators. Such a system would give the best teachers a chance to advance and earn more money without having to leave teaching and enter administration, which is the de facto career ladder for many educators.
Here's some of what they had to say about the two proposals:
Trish Gorham (OEA president): We can always count on the voters of Oakland to support schools. Thank you, once again, for your commitment to maintain a Unified Public Education System.
And I maintain my optimism for a timely settlement to a fair contract.
1day At A Time: What does "career ladder" for outstanding teachers, mean? I thought unions fought against labeling any member as being better than another.
What about a great teacher that wants to stay in teaching? There are some who see this as a life calling. Pay them more!!!
I have no problem with paying higher taxes to increase salary of great teachers, but I'm dismayed by the idea of paying ALL a higher salary. Convince the public that the labor force it supports is systematically monitored for quality assurance. ...
The fundamental question is: When the outcomes are unacceptable, but people are rated as performing, well -- the system is flawed.
Fix the evaluations for principals and teachers. Double salaries for great ones. Actively get rid of the bad ones. Leave the middlers alone but focus on their development.
Seems logical enough, right?
Do that and the public would be happy to support increased revenue. But nobody wants to support nonperformers.
Jim Mordecai: 1 Day: Your argument seems to be for nonsupport for teacher raise because the current system is not perfect and additional paid will not leave undeserving behind.
... It is not like merit pay hasn't been tried before. Nor have past experiments brought the outcome advocates of merit pay had hoped. Those districts that have tried it have not moved closer to perfect teaching force except in the minds of the advocates for merit pay.
IntrepidTeacher: Here's what would improve the teacher performance of every single teacher: smaller class sizes. The rest, quite honestly, is irrelevant. Give me small classes (8 to 10 students) and I can work miracles with even the most reluctant/underachieving/challenging student. Beyond that, it's crowd control and everyone suffers.
Small class sizes. The only thing that will work for sure in every single classroom.
1day At A Time: @intrepid: Thank you for your honesty. Some teachers can work miracles with 30 of the toughest kids in the world. I'm suggesting we pay them more because they are bringing a special ability that you've acknowledged is rather amazing.
Smaller classes, though, are not going to happen.
IntrepidTeacher: Maybe some teachers can work miracles with 30 kids, but most teachers are merely human and not miracle workers, and the truth is, that after 20-plus years in OUSD classrooms, with many colleagues, I have observed even the best are often overwhelmed much of the time.
... It is not physically possible for any teacher, no matter how effective, to actually have more than a passing relationship with 160 students each day. I'm lucky if I can actually have more than a one-minute conversation with each individual student each week, and still get to instruction, planning, grading and other requirements of the job.
Small classes are the best answer. Find the money, because it's worth the investment. Yes, I know my words fall on mostly deaf ears. But I've never met a teacher who thinks that big classes are better than small ones.