I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fixing Schools that Serve Communities with High Levels of Social Dysfunction

Pinellas County is attempting to "fix" 5 schools that have struggled chronically---and they are about to spend a lot of money to implement the reforms necessary to do it.  Significant pay increases (up to an additional $25K over base salary for teachers), longer school days, tests with real-time feedback, and additional staff are some of the components of this plan.

This is an interesting story that addresses a problem that many districts (including Escambia County) face in some isolated school locations:  Community dysfunction, generational poverty, and apathetic or absent parents leading to schools that are perennially under-performing---despite massive subsidies and despite Herculean efforts and the most well intended initiatives implemented by community non-profits, charitable organizations, volunteers, churches, and school districts themselves.

This will be an interesting strategy to watch.

It will be interesting to see whether or not this strategy is the right strategy that will work .  There are NO magic bullets. Short of creating government subsidized, exorbitantly priced boarding schools that serve some communities from birth to Kindergarten---in an effort to save these children from the dysfunctional households and the dysfunctional environments from where some of these unfortunate students come----the solution must entail massive infusions of incentive pay and massive infusions of additional staffing combined with strong site leadership.

Piecemealing it equals only a half-measure can-kick that I do not see working,

for what it's worth---I've tried in vain for years to implement a system here in Escambia County that provides a means for teachers that commit to and stay is schools with the highest levels of community dysfunction to earn pay increases that are significant, recurring and cumulative for the duration of the time such teachers stay in such schools. I know this would drive performance to help these schools, but if one doesn't do something, one can't see the results and reap the benefits.   I've been unable, thus far, to get my counterparts to see the value in doing this to keep such schools from churning out teachers left and right and remaining under-performing sites.  It may take a Pinellas-style action plan COMBINED WITH Boarding schools to break the cycle of social dysfunction in some locations....

I wish my counterparts would read the below linked editorial......

......from  the Tampa Bay Timespiece:

"The combination of good, stable school leadership and incentive pay that attracts proven veteran teachers can be far more potent than either alone. A big pay bump might initially attract great teachers, but only a schoolwide environment conducive to learning will keep them. Putting the two together might finally bring more top teachers to the underperforming schools where they are needed most After being left to languish for years, these five schools and their students deserve a better chance at success. These young students don't have time to wait for a bureaucracy to catch up with their need to learn. They require the help of great teachers and great principals — and the full support of the district and the broader community — now. This ambitious proposal reflects the urgency required to meet the challenge."

Read  Ambitious Proposal for Troubled Pinellas Schools 


Anonymous said...

I see there's another $400K to be voted on at this month's board meeting to turn around Warrington Middle. How many years now have taxpayers footed the bill for this one-year solution? Maybe the school-based dream team and this private company dream team are not so awesome after all?

Jeff Bergosh said...

I have not yet read the agenda item but I will certainly discuss this with my counterparts at the workshop this Friday morning. I voted against this expenditure last year as last year it was the second year of the one year turnaround, and apparently this will be the third year of the one year turnaround. It is not that what they do for the school is not beneficial, and I hear that it is, and I am at that school once weekly on Wednesdays to mentor a student there, it is just the cost that bothers me and the fact that it creates duplication of administration at the site at a very high cost to the taxpayers for a benefit that cannot be easily quantified.

Anonymous said...

Haha, just watched the workshop, re: Turnaround Solutions at Warrington. I thought Mr. Slayton was going to lose it when Dr. Lipnick opened the door for you to discuss cumulative teacher bonuses for staying at low-performing schools. Mr. Slayton stayed grumpy for a while!

Jeff Bergosh said...

Yeah, they had no appetite for discussion on the topic of incentive pay for teachers that work in schools that serve communities with high levels of social dysfunction. But the principal said it herself, and I have heard this myself from teachers who teach at these tough schools where there is NO parental support: The message they send is loud and clear: They love the kids, they love the work, but it becomes physically and mentally exhausting, and eventually they say to themselves, inevitably, "Why am I killing myself, staying here?" and these teachers transfer to the suburbs. That's what happens, then we have the most challenging schools with the least experienced staffs. It is not a mystery, the fix and the solution. Pay them a yearly bonus that is cumulative and recurring as long as they stay in the challenging assignment. Then upon year 5, 8, or 10---when these teachers are senior enough to get an easier, suburban assignment, maybe they stay if they continue to be paid $5K,$7K, or $10K more if they stay in the challenging school. This is how you break the cycle of the inner-city schools being teacher churn factories that subs will not even come to. I've been screaming this for years now, for years. It falls on deaf ears which is sad. It falls on deaf ears even though people know it is what is desperately needed in at least 10-12 of our schools in Escambia if we ever want to get serious about keeping the most experienced teachers in these schools.

Anonymous said...

You know Jeff, I might actually agree with you. I do think the Turnaround group has probably been beneficial in generating new ideas, but it's very important to have a staff that is motivated and experienced enough to perform the job. I am not sure if just having more experienced staff is "the solution" but it's definitely important. In other ways, however, some schools want to wipe out most of the senior staff because they aren't as welcome to new ideas, so it can be a give and a take.