Non-renewals and budget cuts: If you’re willing to talk, we’re ready to listen

In response to the many comments of teachers, the AJC education team is going to look at two issues in the next few weeks:  How budget cuts will affect the classroom and whether non-renewals are on the rise as systems look to cut costs.

So, the reporters are looking for teachers and other school employees willing to discuss the implications of metro Atlanta school budget cuts and teacher contract non-renewals. They’d also like to talk to recently retired school personnel. Please contact education assignment editor Angela Tuck at atuck@ajc.com.

As is always the case, the AJC prefers folks who will go on record with their experiences and comments. However, I am sure that Angela would like to hear from a range of folks, so please consider contacting her even to provide background.

By the way, Angela is now directing education coverage so feel free to send her suggestions. I have talked to her about the strong concerns of Get Schooled bloggers about the new math curriculum, so feel free to send her a note about that.  I know that a reporter had been working on that issue, but the budget crisis pushed everything else aside.

I work for the Opinion/Insight team so Angela is not my editor, but we are longtime colleagues and talk a lot about education and education news. She is very open to ideas.

76 comments Add your comment

Teacher/Learner

April 28th, 2010
9:38 pm

For Angela then, AND Maureen, related to the “new” maths curriculum…I wonder several things: first, do the folks who take issue with the curriculum understand that the countries who continually outscore (out think) the US students use the same curriculum and second, are folks taking issue with the present difficulties experienced by high school kids who have not had the benefit of the entire curriculum and are floundering when asked to explain their thinking, connect and adapt strategies, formulas, and concepts to solve new problems or is the issue with the elementary curriculum? If it includes the latter, I invite those folks to come sit in on my first grade maths class…the little rural kids I teach will astound you as they have me while figuring out regrouping for addition and subtraction, as well as early multiplication…just like the kids in the over achieving countries do…right out here in rural Henry County.

Teacher/Learner

April 28th, 2010
9:39 pm

I just posted a comment and its not here…the Filter monster must be active!!!!

Reach out

April 28th, 2010
9:40 pm

Maureen consider reaching out to recently retired teachers who they can’t retaliate against.

And consider the Open Records Request Act. This many non-renewals, someone must have spilled the beans.

JacketFan

April 28th, 2010
9:56 pm

I know that many educators aren’t receiving contracts until mid-May, which is making many nervous. My ex is a media specialist and I know she’s feeling uncertain about her future. On that note, an interesting (and disturbing) visual about the affect of budget cuts on school libraries nationwide:

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=117551670433142326244.000482bb91ce51be5802b

ScienceTeacher671

April 28th, 2010
9:56 pm

We’ve yet to see how budget cuts will impact the classroom, except that we’ve already seen cuts in funding for supplies and for field trips.

I’d still like to see a “follow the money” type study on testing companies, etc. Who gains now from the CRCTs, the EOCTs, the GHSGTs, and the new math curriculum, and who stands to gain if new tests were required for this merit pay proposal?

Mid-South Philosopher

April 28th, 2010
9:58 pm

Ms. Downey,

You might want to give some consideration to the phenomenon that is going on in Georgia having to do with the power of teachers to scare the Hades out of politicians. It is a movement just as powerful as the “Tea Party” movement in the political venue, but it is much quieter. It is outside the mainstream teacher organizations (GAE, PAGE, etc). It has developed since teachers learned in 2002 that they (along with support from their friends, their doctors, their beauticians, their car mechanics, their lodge brethren and wifes, their fellow church members, and their “whole bunch of kinfolk”) could take respective politicians to the “woodshed.” You might want to re-interview Roy Barnes about his experience!

Teachers are not like the “Tea Party” folks. They are much more sophisticated, and much more “effective” at removing “local” politicians.

It will make a good story.

Clayton county

April 28th, 2010
9:58 pm

Also, check with teachers who are leaving the profession altogether! Teachers are tired of the education system here in Georgia especially Clayton County Public Schools!

ScienceTeacher671

April 28th, 2010
10:06 pm

@JacketFan, true, contracts aren’t going out until mid-May. We haven’t seen ours yet.

Those of us who are close to retirement figure we can handle a couple more years, and those with less seniority will get let go first.

What’s scarier is that many of the youngest and brightest teachers I know are using the extra time to try to find new careers outside of public education. The ones of whom I speak will probably won’t be non-renewed, because they are great teachers…but they may not be back, because they’ve had enough already, and they’re talented enough that they can find something else to do.

On the other hand, those young teachers who can’t do much else will be back, if the job offers are there. They’ll be the “warm bodies” that administrators will hire if they can’t find better qualified inexperienced teachers.

ScienceTeacher671

April 28th, 2010
10:08 pm

Clayton county, my post was eaten by the filter, but it’s not just Clayton County…here in South Georgia, I know several teachers who are leaving either the state or the profession.

doh

April 28th, 2010
10:17 pm

We have the 45th lowest cigarette tax in the country at .37. The legislature has refused to raise it, in order to raise any type of revenue. I am not stating that this is the solution to all the problems, but it shows the basic problem with this state. Cigarettes are more important than kids. As Stanley Kubrick once said “You either care….or your don’t.”

Cobb Teacher

April 28th, 2010
10:21 pm

Please look into teacher morale. The tension is thick. The anxiety of wondering how we will do the job next year with such vast cuts and pay decreases. I worry about those who are already on such tight budgets what with student loans. The community wants highly educated teachers, yet wonders why we are so concerned with our paycuts and furloughs. I can’t possibly squeeze in a side job and keep up with the paperwork. What is the breaking point? When my 23 year old neighbor graduates from college and works for Home Depot with a starting pay more than mine, what am I to think? I LOVE teaching, but please, do I not deserve the respect and pay for the work I have put in? Why do teachers always have to be the ones who “sacrifice for the children?”

Award winning

April 28th, 2010
10:24 pm

What, mid-south, you mean the legislature doesn’t fear the Neville Chamberlain Award winning PAGE and GAE?

Lee Aycock

April 28th, 2010
10:28 pm

Our state officials need to understand that the people of Georgia are highly upset with our state government for the budget cuts in our children’s education. I attended two local community meetings in the past three days where the people present, highly disapproved of budget cuts being made to education. Community citizens are organizing strategies to meet the challenge with the power of their “VOTE.”

Start in Hall

April 28th, 2010
10:32 pm

Ms. Tuck – it’s not Gwinnett but it started here last year (over 100 teachers let go – almost all nontenured principals told /coached on how to and who to let go in order to minimize due process hearings and unemployment claims) – please take a read. Feel free to contact me with any questions

http://thehallmonitor.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/hall-county-horror/

Also remember administrators in this state are not tenured either. Those who stand up for teachers in something like this face non-renewal and harassment/retaliation from the people that want it done.

PAGE and GAE fight for teachers

April 28th, 2010
10:34 pm

Here’s the top secret PAGE and GAE negotiation strategy for fighting for teachers

PAGE/GAE: We capitulate to your demands

But we haven’t made any demands yet.

PAGE/GAE: Nevertheless, we capitulate to them

gwinnett educator (for a little while)

April 28th, 2010
10:35 pm

I’m one of those NON renewed people. This would have been my 3rd yr in Gwinnett after 10 in Dekalb. I left my end of the yr evaluation UNSIGNED! I’m headed to a northern state with my child in July where I will be teaching. It’s official. I’m hired and I’m outta here!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Non-renewals and budget cuts: If you’re willing to talk, we’re ready to listen http://bit.ly/9dMkbT [...]

I'm Just Sayin'

April 28th, 2010
10:40 pm

I can’t believe that no one has even thought about the idea of adding a 1-2% tax on cigarettes and alcohol. This would surely generate some much needed revenue to save the schools. Heck, even allow alcohol to be sold on Sundays. Viola! End of debt.

I'm Just Sayin'

April 28th, 2010
10:43 pm

Sonny Perdue – are you %^@#^ kidding me? When was the last time you were in a school? Don’t you realize that teachers have NO CONTROL over their students when they leave their classroom? We can’t control their home life. Are you blind? If you want to evaluate me, then I demand to be evaluated and treated like a coach.

I will have tryouts for my class and I will only take the best. … I will hold mandatory after school practice and those that make it can stay. I reserve the right to run the dickens out of students who act like a fool or don’t come prepared but I will keep those that make it. I will have the final say about kicking the trouble makers off my team and keep those that want to learn. When I can do all of the aforementioned, then bring merit pay on. You should be ashamed of yourself. I can’t wait for your term to end.

Hey Perdue – how about we base your salary on how “wonderful” of a job you are doing? Yea, that’s what I thought.

gwinnett educator (for a little while)

April 28th, 2010
10:49 pm

I think I’m trapped.

Chalkboard Flu

April 28th, 2010
10:50 pm

Jo Blase and Joseph Blase, two professors at UGA, have studied the problem of administrator abuse of teachers extensively. They wrote a book on the subject. Your editor might find a conversation with either or both of them interesting and enlightening.

Lynn

April 28th, 2010
10:51 pm

There are many veteran teachers who have received less than outsrtanding reviews in Cobb County who have protested their evaluations. The county should have to disclose this as well as any disciplinary action taking against teachers or department heads who have disagreed with the reviews. These teachers have concrete evidence of their effectiveness.

Cobb County and I am sure other counties are merely doing this to get rid of teachers at higher salaries. They did it last year with the younger teachers. The county can then claim that they only laid off 579 teachers while nonrenewing another 500 or 600. The school board, the superintendent, and the and administrators all need to be held responsible for these actions.

@teacher/learner

April 28th, 2010
10:55 pm

other countries do not use the “same” curriculum. they cover fewer topics during the year. Have REAL high stakes testing that puts students on certain pathways to graduation. Could you imagine what parents would do if they where told that their 8th grader didnt score high enough and could only go to school through the 10 grade.
High school teachers have told me many times that students reach them not knowing their multipication tables or how to divide. Seems a lot of students put the numbers in the calculator in the wrong order. Students dont know place value.
Well other countries do this and that; but where do they send their kids if they want the best higher education: The good ole USA. We still are the best in the world, the problem is this one size fits all garbage thats been forced on us by NCLB and K. Cox. Like I have read on this blog before not every kid can lift 500lbs or run a mile in under 5 min; but all of them will be taking Pre-Cal for Math IV. I mean really.

Step up AJC

April 28th, 2010
11:21 pm

Administrator abuse is a topic that has been severely, SEVERELY under reported by the AJC. AJC reporters are very much aware of the abuse; there’s no way they can’t be, yet they know it’s hard to find teachers to go on the record.

Why not contact the Blases, AJC?

Chalkboard Flu

April 28th, 2010
11:48 pm

Just an additional point. In the Blases’ book, one of the most poignant chapters is the description of the severe emotional consequences following a bad evaluation. It can literally destroy a person. Please start this conversation.

Dr. John Trotter

April 28th, 2010
11:56 pm

Vote The Suckers Out!

By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

I have been away from the blogs for a while. Too d_mn busy! Sonny Perdue and some of his henchmen have totally disrespected teachers with this Merit Pay Mirage. Do they really think that this will improve education in Georgia? (I have written several articles on Merit Pay on http://www.theteachersadvocate.com.) What our schools in Georgia need is a better class of students. Do you think that anyone at GAE or PAGE will say this? Ha! It it true, and in your hearts, you guys know that I am speaking the truth. You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions. This is our constant mantra at MACE, and no one can logically dispute this. No one. Another statement prominently displayed on MACE literature (and even on our envelopes) is this: “MACE Devours Administrators Who Abuse Teachers.” Administrative abuse? Of course. Every day. It is rampant. In the Spring of 1996, the headline for the lead article in The Teacher’s Advocate! magazine was “Teacher Abuse Is Epidemic!” It’s been epidemic for years, but everyone wants bury their heads in the proverbial sand. D_mn it! When are Governors, legislators, school board members, and other policy-makers (including Arne Duncan in Washington, D. C.) going to take their heads out of the sand and listen? They are operating like they still believe that the Earth is flat. They need to sail West (discipline in the classrooms) to reach the East Indies (academic achievement). They apparently think that they will fall off the Earth if they insist on classroom discipline. But, there will never be any significant changes in academic achievement without first establishing classroom discipline, and teachers cannot establish good classroom discipline when a handful (or a whole classroom full) of miscreants and thugs substantially disrupt the classes, knowing that the weasel, booger-eating, and kiss-up administrators are either too afraid or too lazy to do anything to the thugs who are running some of our schools. Abject administrative cowardice, laziness, apathy and/or callousness!

Any legislator who goes along with Sonny’s maniacal Merit Pay plan should be voted out of office! Vote all of the sucker out of office! (c) MACE, April 28, 2010.

Future Teacher

April 29th, 2010
12:36 am

I’d also like to see a story on teachers leaving the profession or moving to teach in another states. I’d even include pre-service teachers that are AVOIDING teaching in GA schools. It’ll be only a matter of time before school districts here are crying “teacher shortage” after schools start failing from consequences of budget problems (e.g. larger class sizes).

Attentive Parent

April 29th, 2010
5:18 am

Probably the best and most concise explanation of how the US integrated math curriculum funded by NSF and currently in use in Georgia differs from how it is taught elsewhere can be found here:

http://www.claytonmathmatters.com/JimMilgramLetter.html

Jim has been a professor of Mathematics at Stanford for about 40 years and is also the author of the math portion of the new Pioneer report “Fair to Middling” highly critical of the most current and previous drafts of the Common Core Standards. I have linked to the report on previous threads.

Georgia officials have repeatedly stated that the Common Core math standards are based on what has been implemented in Georgia. I see no reason not to take them at their word.

What a national tragedy that will be. Read the linked Milgram letter to appreciate why.

Teaching in FL is worse

April 29th, 2010
5:28 am

Mid-South: I wonder where you get your information from. This supposed “pull” that our “unions” have is hogwash, at least in this part of the country. I know things are much different in the northeast. Our “unions” are a fart in the wind.

Check out this anti-union website. They even show that political contributions equaled less than 15K:

http://www.teachersunionexposed.com/stateContributions.cfm?state=GA

Teaching in FL is worse

April 29th, 2010
5:31 am

Future teacher: Hang in there. When the dust settles, there will be plenty of jobs, especially in Special Ed and ESOL. The kids will always need us. There are limits to how many can afford home schooling and private school.

Vote NO to the Banana Republic of the South!

Attentive Parent

April 29th, 2010
5:31 am

On the issue of merit pay, there is extensive well documented research into what constitutes effective instruction in reading and math and why. I’ve linked to some of it in the past.

There is a great deal of evidence that many Georgia school districts are mandating instructional techniques that preclude or minimize the ability to use these well supported methods.

It’s embedded, for example, in a district’s adoption of Balanced Literacy in the definition of what it means to teach reading that way and in the materials to be used or in a district’s insistence on using the math frameworks and the sort of inquiry, “problem solving” first approach ably described in Jim Milgram’s letter linked above.

Will the state and the districts planning to push merit pay based at least in part on student performance free up their teachers to teach based on proven effective methods?

Teaching in FL is worse

April 29th, 2010
6:16 am

You can lead a horse to water…..

(Disclaimerr: I am in NO WAY comparing children to horses.)

ScienceTeacher671

April 29th, 2010
6:22 am

It’s already been established that GAE and PAGE can’t or won’t do anything for non-tenured, non-renewed teachers – such teachers don’t have to be given a reason for their non-renewal.

Is MACE doing anything? Can MACE do anything? And what about for teachers who aren’t in the metro area?

gwinnett educator (for a few more days)

April 29th, 2010
6:28 am

It happened to me. I left the end of the year evaluation UNSIGNED! This would have been my 3rd complete year in Gwinnett (after 10 in Dekalb). It’s ok though..I’ve been hired in Virginia!

MS Man

April 29th, 2010
6:39 am

Although there are bad adminstrators our there, I would offer that there are bad teachers out there as well that don’t realize they are bad or ineffective. In addition, the teaching profession, in general, is very afraid to be critical of one another’s work in the classroom with student learning in official settings. Sure, we all talk about “that teacher” in the hallway and wish they would go on because they are bad for kids and we know it. But, there are also a good number of nice, well meaning teachers out there who are just plain ineffective at teaching kids. They usually get by with most administrators because they do their lesson plans, they grade papers, and they do their duties but the kids are running crazy in the room and there is no learning going on. I think most parents would say those teachers are the ones I don’t want my kids to have. As a profession, we usually let those people go because we are afraid to hurt people’s feelings. If we want to be seen as professionals, we need to figure out the best ways to weed out the ineffective teachers based on their performance. Administrators need to step up and follow due process and document veterans who are ineffective in the right ways. As educators, we need to step up and say that we really know who the weak teachers are and push them out so we can improve our profession.

teacherparent

April 29th, 2010
8:22 am

Governor Perdue had the audacity to go on camera for a local news station and claim that he was “proud of the way” education has been funded in Georgia. Proud of the fact that while in office his administration has cut $4 Billion from education? Proud of the fact that he has attempted (and finally got) REMOVAL of dedicated library media funds every single year he has been in office? Proud of the fact that there is a huge disparity, even among schools in the same system, in available resources to school children because of NO oversight of media fund spending? Legislators told media specialists to turn abuses in to the State Auditor – is Gov. Perdue proud of the fact that NO ACTION has ever been taken over school systems that took media funds and redirected them? While parents in Fulton County are upset that band & orchestra programs are being removed from the elementary schools but where was the outcry when some of their media centers received $1 per student to buy resources? Georgia will continue to languish at the bottom of the pile educationally as long as we accept this sad state of affairs – AND the ones most likely to be affected by this misappropriation of funds (those in the poorer districts) are the ones that are the least likely to be aware of it and complain. How perfect – because they are the ones that need these resources the most. Shame on you, Perdue. Shame on every legislator who voted for cut after cut after cut. Shame on the parents of this state who allowed it to happen year after year without reacting with outrage. And, frankly, shame on any educator who did not also contact their legislators to protest the hacking away of public education.

JacketFan

April 29th, 2010
8:33 am

@JustSayin – lots of folks have been talking about the cigarette and liquor sales tax. However, the legislators in GA are filling their pockets with lobbyist dollars from those two industries (tobacco and alcohol). They won’t give up that cash cow for education. Not in a million years.

Teaching is worse in FL

April 29th, 2010
9:01 am

MS man: I have has several interns over the years that have made me very hopeful about the future. WIth that said, I did have one very nice, caring lady that I KNEW from day 1 probably wouldn’t make it. Between myself and her college we gave her every chance to improve.

It was tough to be the ones to tell her she spent thousands of dollars and many hours only to wash out. More schools and teachers need the courage to do this before these teachers get into classrooms.

who to blame

April 29th, 2010
10:06 am

“equally no doubt that the current programs of this kind available in the United States are experimental”; great to know every student in GA is in this experiment; EPIC FAIL; K.Cox fix this mess you got us into before Nov. Do the right thing, own up to it. We are still flying by the seat of our pants with this new math. The Ga DOE still has not figured out what Math IV will be like, my daughter will be dual enrolled during her junior/senior year so she can get away from this math.

“mathematics outcomes at Michigan State for the two groups before the introduction of CorePlus, but after that there was a steady and highly significant decline in student outcomes for the CorePlus students, while the outcomes for the rest of the students remained essentially unchanged.”

JJ

April 29th, 2010
10:54 am

How about the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars have left Cobb county to finance other school districts?? Why do farmers down state pay virtually no local tax for their land, and we then send them the money? If farm land was valued like suburban land there would be a lot more cash to go around!

Teacher, I don't get it

April 29th, 2010
1:16 pm

The Secret Life of Teachers: A Day in the Life of the Displaced
6:30 I enter Starbucks looking RIDICULOUS. I have on my school T-Shirt, a bandanna that says “A+ for Teachers; We’ll School You,” and yoga pants. The barrista seems amused by my outfit. I can’t help but think, “I wonder if I’ll ever go to this place anymore if I am at a different school by a different Starbucks?”
6:45 I get to school early, as always. It’s all about copies first thing in the am. Miss Kindergarten is already at the copy machine. She tells me she couldn’t sleep last night because she heard about another district in the city that laid off 250 teachers.
7:40 I go outside to pick up my class. I am greeted by a loud chorus of “tea-chers,tea-chers…” My class wants the teachers to win the Staff vs. Fifth Grade kickball game.
8:00 The fifth graders win the kickball game, and, no, we did not let them win. My class runs out on the field to hug me. They want me to know that I kicked the kickball better than anyone they’ve ever seen. I wonder, “Is this the last time I play in this kickball game?”
9:00 It is teaching time. The day speeds by, and on Wednesdays the kids go home at 12:45.
12:45 We have a staff training on the specifics of implementing RTI next year. All the talk about next year is prefaced by a big fat “IF” in my mind. My team is actually excited about it and we start making plans, but I end it saying, “I just don’t want to play this game because I may not be here.” That was the first time I said anything about it, but clearly displacement had been bothering me all day long.
3:30 Commute home. It is 90 degrees plus, and the black war paint under my eyes is starting to run down my face.
3:45 I walk straight in my door and hit the showers, literally. I catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror and I look even more RIDICULOUS than I did in the morning.

I’ll get up tomorrow and have a very similar experience. Until May 18, when the election decides my future, I will keep thinking about the possibility of ending my time at my school. I think when I know, even if it is not the answer I want, I will at least have something new to look toward. In the meantime, this is hard.

http://chronicleofayoungteacher.blogspot.com

Cobb Teacher

April 29th, 2010
2:15 pm

How can an administrator evaluate you once a year and make a fair assumption of your teaching ability? You could have been having a bad day or even your students could have been having a bad day. We need to move away from summative assessments and head towards formative assessments. Make the evaluations meaningful and not punitive. Teaching is a career that takes time to learn. Colleges don’t teach you how to teach!

Future Teacher

April 29th, 2010
2:32 pm

Number of comments on the post about Gwinnett non-renewals: over 100. Number of comments on this post asking for those willing to talk about it: less than 50 as of 2:30. Why the difference? Is it fear for losing jobs?

Pluto

April 29th, 2010
2:42 pm

In the wonderful world of Forsyth county where all students are good looking and above average, we are just not renewing “some” teachers contracts and not saying that we are having to make cuts. The workload will increase and they will penalize teacher absences by not allowing substitutes to cut costs. No cuts in administration and secretaries though, phew!!

Sid Camp

April 29th, 2010
3:23 pm

Of course its fear. That’s the “Gwinnett Way”

Teachers, It's time to talk!

April 29th, 2010
3:36 pm

Okay Teachers,
As a teacher who has experienced this I say it is time to tell it ALL. Please!

Now that the AJC is willing to listen, please contact Angela Tuck and share with her. We have to trust someone. If you don’t want her to use your “real name” just let her know. Many of us have had this experience and have valid documentation to back us up. It is one thing for districts to experience a financial shortfall, but to ruin your career…

Veteran Teacher in Cobb

April 29th, 2010
3:44 pm

I’ve been in Cobb for 16 years. This is the first time I have EVER received negative comments on my evaluation. Many times I have received an overall “Exlempory” rating and always have glowing comments. But this year it seems I am just an “Emerging” teacher. Although I will be renewed this year, makes me wonder if this is a set-up to get rid of me next year. I did appeal and my Principal upheld the evaluation as given. Wondering if I should send the appeal on to the County…I have a feeling they will rubber-stamp the evaluation. Any Cobb teachers out there who have successfully appealed?

Hey Maureen

April 29th, 2010
3:55 pm

Maureen, can you keep us posted in regard to the number of responses that Angela Tuck receives? NOT names or any other information, but merely the number of teachers, staff and others who have contacted her. Then keep us posted.

There is strength in numbers and I believe that many teachers are “afraid” to tell. If they just know how many others have been brave enough to at least get their story out it may empower others of us to take charge of our lives.

KC

April 29th, 2010
4:30 pm

My wife is a CC teacher and her evaluation was satisfactory in all categories. In the last 10+ years it was mostly outstanding. She was told by her principal that they were told to not issue any outstandings. Before all is said and done I bet there will be a bunch of teachers talking to lawyers.

HeyKC

April 29th, 2010
4:36 pm

Makes sense. If you isue an outstanding it is hard to turn around and say the teacher needs improvement… I wonder who told the principals that. CC wants to keep all options open. The do not know how many teachers will need to be weeded out.