Monday, October 24, 2011

Help for rookie teachers

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will vote on a plan for supporting beginning teachers at its meeting tomorrow.

It's not clear to me how much is new and different in this plan  --  teachers, feel free to weigh in  --  and how much is just putting things in writing to meet state requirements.  The plan calls for volunteer mentors.  From what I've heard, such mentoring programs can range from wildly successful to perfunctory,  depending on the skill and enthusiasm of the mentor,  the chemistry between the mentor and beginner,  the support from school administration and the time available for mentors to observe and coach.  (Update 10/25:  Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh clarified that it's the latter.  There's nothing new here,  but the state now requires the school board to approve the plan for beginning teachers.)

There's a widespread sense that this is a time for CMS to rebuild confidence and morale among its teaching force,  which has been battered by layoffs,  pay freezes,  new testing requirements and a rocky start to district performance pay effort.  New teacher work groups started meeting last week to chart the next phase of the effort, which has been dubbed the Talent Effectiveness Project.

As always,  I'll be eager to hear the view from the front lines.


Anonymous said...

So, let's say you are a dedicated, committed elementary teacher. You get to work at 7:20 am and leave at 5:00 pm. You go home and have dinner with your family, spend an hour with your kids before bed time, and then wiped out, you spend another 60 - 60 minutes working to make sure you are prepared to do a great job tomorrow.

You go to bed at 10:00 pm so you can wake up at 5:30 am to do it again.

When exactly is a teacher working that schedule supposed to be able to spend time helping a teacher who has no idea what she/he is doing because when you go to college to be a teacher the universities don'e even teach students the very first thing needed to be a good teacher (classroom management)?

Oh yeah, and if you are really lucky, some of the 60 - 90 minutes you spend at night is actually spent on valuable stuff and not the useless and meaningless administrative bs you are incessantly forced to do more and more of as people who nothing about education continue to drive your school district (CMS) into the ditch......

Wiley Coyote said...

This "Talent Effectiveness Project" reminds me of Jerry Maquire's Mission Statement...

...or err..memo.

But doesn't it make you feel soooo good about your business?

Anonymous said...

And the pendulum swings back this way again...LOL

Anonymous said...

Anon, funny how the pendulum keeps swinging the wrong way.....

Anonymous said...

This is nothing new. Teachers are no longer receiving a stipend for mentoring new teachers. Now it is going to be alot harder to get the "volunteer" mentors, because there is still all the paperwork that has to be done for the mentoring, but no incentive to do so.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 3:45...

Joe White is out of a job and has all the answers.

Get him to mentor.

Wiley Coyote said...

Isn't it pathetic how when we had teaching assistants and MORE teachers and MORE schools and MORE money, that CMS did WORSE and yet this year we win an award for progress - with LESS?

...think about that as you head to the polls or decide to fill out the "what I would like to see in a superintendent" survey...

Anonymous said...

The Board pontificates; we have a new plan! Well folks, what the heck happened to the old plan? The old plan, designed by a current CMS classroom English teacher was fantastic. Teacher/coaches were paid to mentor small groups of new teachers and it worked. Then other folks took hold of it and they drove out the original designer. She was smart enough to see that they were messing things up and went back to the classroom. Where is that plan now? In the trash. And the new plan? No full time teacher/mentors. No extra pay for extra work. Who would take this on in their right mind? to love it! More with less folks.

We can spend millions on developing new tests that will be useless next year. We can also buy multimillion dollar data programs that don't interact with current systems. Systems that can't communicate with other systems are useless folks. Old data to drive instruction is a day late. Thanks Eric, Timmy, Pete and Trent. Nothing but fools in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

This is a great move! Ann, do we know how they are going to fund this?

Anonymous said...

New teachers are so much cheaper in the long run, so I suspect that if enough veteran teachers are ousted from their jobs (i.e. fired), then that could leave enough money to pay some of the slightly less-new teachers to serve as mentors for the brand new ones. Additionally, if all the newbies need to learn is how to teach to a test there are testing manuals for that purpose. Problem solved.

JeniWDay said...

New teachers absolutely need all possible support. However, with a system that evaluates teachers based on test scores, and ranks those teachers and then schools by comparing teacher scores, the deck, as they say, is stacked. Not only are you asking a veteran teacher to somehow carve out more time ... in a day that is so incredibly full that I defy anyone who has not been a teacher to begin to understand the stress and frustration a teacher who wants to serve her/his student feels on a daily basis ... but you are asking a teacher to defy his/her directive from the system (make your test scores the best). Where does this end? With either the wonderful advent of a teacher who is able to ignore the fact that his/her pay and evaluation is based on doing better than others and is willing to openly share all successful plans and techniques or (and perhaps more realistically) with a mentor who is only able - willing? - to engage as a mentor up to a point.

therestofthestory said...

Sorry but this is only showtime for the benefit of the candidates who want more money for the school system so they can institute "another" program hoping to pull in support from MeckActs and others to get behind an even bigger push for more taxation in the next budget.

Anonymous said...

JeniWDay, Do you want to instead maintain the existing system where teachers are not compared to each other and are not paid based on how well they teach? Do you the existing system brings out the best in everyone?

Anonymous said...

All a ruse to get legislators to pass h546. No sincerity, no funding, no chance of success.

Once h546 is passed cms will rollout their Real plan.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:14...

Anonymous said...

As usual Eric, Duh, and Tim keep subscribing to the P.T. Barnum format of job suckers born every minute.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean I have to place a Broad Logo from Party Central on my mentor agreement?

Ann Doss Helms said...

4:14, very interesting about replacing a system that provided some pay to mentors. I'll try to find out more about that.

8:58, I'm grinning -- I did hear they've asked everyone to attach the Broad Prize logo to CMS emails!

BolynMcClung said...


Two Saturdays ago I spoke with a teacher that is very active in the community. I asked that teacher about participation in TEP teacher groups that were being formed around the concept. I assumed some sort of buy-in was there from the teacher. I was surprised.

The teacher said there wasn't time to do this. Just to pay the bills required a second job of 3 hours a day. .....but the teacher wasn't against trying to get a new plan going.

That was the best comment I received.

The night before I spoke with a very experienced teacher. That teacher's response to CMS' request that teachers voluntarily attend meetings to get TEP restarted was, "I'm not going to give the benefit of my XX years of experience for free when people in the Central Office get big bucks for figuring all this out. Pay me and MAYBE I'll considering it.

A another teacher that night had similar comments.

All three are CMS teachers.

I relate these in the interest of trying to find something that gets teachers out of the one-size-fits-all paycheck.

I support TEP/PfP. The benefits of tenure(career status) have passed.

Bolyn McClung

Jeff Wise said...

JeniWDay is spot on. Any evaluation system that relies on test score and ranks teachers will negate the benefits of teachers helping teachers.

I've read multiple studies that show well-designed Peer Review Systems that include a support infrastructure for newer teachers results in stronger, more successful schools.

Additionally well-designed Peer Review Systems help raise up lower performing teachers and identify chronically weak teachers. So yes, it can help us find out which teachers are effective and which ones should seek other employment.

Further, other studies show that schools where teachers collaborate with other teachers are also better performing schools.

There's not a single study that shows Merit Pay creates stronger teachers or better performing schools.

When the end goal is to educate and prepare students to be problem solvers why would we want to have teachers competing with each other just to save their jobs?

Teachers need to be allowed to do what they do best: teach. And be able to reach every student as effectively as they can, which means not being constrained by dozens of standardized tests that provide unreliable sets of data.

Anonymous said...

First year teachers and Teach for America teachers are a huge problem in CMS. Yet, to save money, CMS principals are forced into hiring first year teachers because its a way to "save money".

The problem that the "run education like a business" crowd does not understand is that the reality is as follows:

Students get first year teachers in first and second grade, for example, and because those teachers are inexperienced and ineffective, those kids fall behind. Kids then will get an experienced 3rd grade teacher who has to spend extra time getting those kids up to where they should be, so that he/she can get them where they need to be.

That is a very real and very common scenario. Don't believe it, go ask an experienced teacher about it. You'll find out it is the truth.

Universities are not teaching the most basic required teaching skill - classroom management. If you can't control and manage the minute by minute goings on in the classroom, education of children suffers. Its a proven fact.

First year teachers, Teach for America teachers do not have these skills and as a result, the kids who get a first year or TFA teacher are behind when they start the next grade. Experienced teachers are then held to an even higher standard because they must catch those students up and get them to grade level. Its a real problem and real cause of resentment in the world of education.

No one should be thrown into a classroom fresh out of college - the right thing would be for every first year teacher to spend that first year with an experienced teacher, to learn how to actually teach. ACTUAL teaching is not what you learn in college. It IS what you learn in the actual classroom. Who better to learn that from than the excellent experienced teachers in the district.

Yet, that is not the way you "run education like a business". Apprenticeship programs....oh dear we don't do that in this country.

Hiring first year teachers without giving them the proper skills and experience to be effective is what the "run education like a business" folks like. It saves money. But it hurts results...yep, that's the way we should keep dong it.

All of which should lead you to ask yourself - "what are our educational priorities?"

If it's running more good teachers out of the profession so we can save money, well then keep on the existing path the current school board has us on.

If our educational priorities are doing what is in the best interest of delivering the best education to our children - well that is NOT the path the current board is pursuing and the appropriate changes need to be made in this election and in the board elections in 2013.

therestofthestory said...

Bolyn, I guess I need to buy you a cup of coffee sometime and figure out how you can support the present plan of PfP. Now do not get me wrong, I support some way of better evaluating teachers such that we can pay them better and get away from the one size fits all. Oh wait, isn't that public education anyway?

Here is the problem I see. One, why would you administer tests to students when the tests mean nothing to their promotion. Okay I will take the slap due to the evidence of social promotion in CMS. Second, I understand (better) teachers' reservations when they are asked to help evaluate and develop lesser performing teachers. It slaps them with no compensation for this extra duty and second, it creates competitiveness for those "bonus" bucks. If a teacher truly wanted to become better, they usually do something that requires money out of their pocket and then that are "asked" to turn around and distribute that "knowledge" for free?

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 11:12...

I've had my share of interviews where I was asked "how much experience do you have?"

The question becomes "how do I get experience if no one will give me a chance?"

You said this:

Students get first year teachers in first and second grade, for example, and because those teachers are inexperienced and ineffective, those kids fall behind. Kids then will get an experienced 3rd grade teacher who has to spend extra time getting those kids up to where they should be, so that he/she can get them where they need to be.

Are we to assume when it was your first year as a teacher that you didn't need supervision?

What about that third grade teacher? At some point, he or she had to be a first year teacher.

Teachers go through rigorous courses in college to become a teacher. Yes, a first year teacher is not going to have the experience and wisdom of one who has taught for 5 years or more, but EVERY teacher has a first year.

It used to be in SC that student teachers had to work within a classroom while in college to get a feel of the everyday rigor.

I'll agree with you on that point, but to me, that's where the principal or peer groups within the school come into play to step in and guide beginiing teachers.

Wiley Coyote said...


I believe PFP isn't rocket science.

As I stated before (and I don't know if you read it), I believe PFP can be implemented in a way as to not be intrusive, measure performance for the teacher and classroom as a whole and also have the tests be part of the student's grade.

I'm certainly no expert when it comes to testing, curriculum and PFP testing, but it seems common sense is somehow lacking in this whole debate.

The goal is to ensure kids are learning what is being taught. How does that normally happen day to day? Through homework, pop tests, major tests, etc, right?

Why can't CMS come up with a curriculum for every course and have this curriculum taught in every school. Algebra I in North Meck is the same in South Meck. US History is the same at Butler as it in at Providence and so on.

Teachers are given the freedom to teach the subject matter as they choose but must cover the course to a certain point by the end of the semester. At that time, students would be given a STANDARDIZED test based on what the average student should have learned from the course during that time.

The grade would count a certain percentage towards their final grade as would the last standardized test at the end of the second semester.

CMS would already know what the student makeup is for every Algebra I class or whatever the subject may be so comparing tests results across the district should produce useable data to determine how students learned and how teachers taught their subject.

The teacher would still give homework, tests and other assignments that would all go together with the two standardized tests for the student's overall grade.

Maybe that's too simplistic but it works for me.

therestofthestory said...

11:12, one college education program I am familar with has perspective teachers in the classrooms for 2 years before their graduation. This program as part of its community service piece, encourages the perspective teachers to get into the local high needs schools beginning their freshman year. Sure they are only tutors or teacher's helpers but they are seeing things first hand early on.

Also, as they take their courses like Math Education, they then are required to go teach some classes in these schools. When the college student does their "practice teaching" semester, they are working under a master teacher and are even in that classroom the semester before at least 3 part days a week getting to know the students and the teacher better.

So as you see, the NC college program I have first hand knowledge of is very extensive in preparing the perspective teacher. Even to the point that their first year of actually teaching, the other teachers on the team complained when the principal wanted to move the new teacher to another grade for its need because "we do not have to carry the new teacher".

therestofthestory said...

WC, in theory, that was the goal of the NC ABC tests. The curriculum is actually driven by the state board and thus the textbook selection that all schools in NC would use to teach US History, so the US history teacher in Charlotte be teaching from the same book and giving the same standardized test as other teachers in Rocky Mount, Raleigh, Asheville, etc.

The problem now is that the NC Legislature has said these tests can not be used to determine pass/fail of these classes or any grading consideration. So the vital part I now see missing is that the student has some skin in the game such that they are willing to try hard to do well on the test rather than using it to sink an unpopular teacher.

Wiley Coyote said...


I hear what you're saying but listen to how this sounds:

The problem now is that the NC Legislature has said these tests can not be used to determine pass/fail of these classes or any grading consideration.

The absurdity of that statement (not you that is absurd for saying it) is that the two tests I talk about would be no different than a semester test a teacher would makeup to see who has learned what.

Anonymous said...


Pay professionals for the job to be done IF you want the job to be done right.

Anonymous said...

NOW the students will have MORE tests. The ACT is now a mandatory requirement by the state of NC. Teachers will not be paid for the administration of these tests. You will have to work on Saturdays to receive the ACT compensation.

therestofthestory said...

WC, the absurdity is my point. To your point, somehow you have to judge that the semester test a CMS Myers Park teacher creates, a semester test that a West Charlotte teacher creates, and a semester test that an Asheville teacher creates equally tests the material supposively covered in the curriculum guide for the semester. That is the challenge.

I heard a teacher this evening say that they are now around 9 weeks into the year and have gotten about 2 weeks worth of instruction time in. They love assessments. Probably a good chance performance scores will go down this year exactly when they have added back so many TA's and teachers.

Anonymous said...

I am an adult student doing my student teaching this semester, his is honestly the most challenging thing I have ever done. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. I have worked as a TA for 10+ years, and after this experience, I have a newfound respect for teachers. There is no way the public can understand the multitude of responsibilities teacher bear.

The comment about classroom management is so true. It is just as important if not more important than knowing the content that you are teaching, because if students are not engaged and actively participating in the lesson, you cannot teach them anything.

One option to improve the "first year teacher" ineffectiveness described by previous posters might be to have teacher candidates work as teacher assistants for a year before doing student teaching. It would be a win-win situation--student teachers would have a job that provided valuable on-the-job training, and the school system could save money by not having to pay benefits.

Wiley Coyote said...


No no's where the disconnect is.

The two semester tests would be standardized tests developed by the district, not the teacher. Only those two tests.

They would AS IF a teacher had come up with them.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, this is Anon 11:21

I am not a teacher, but am intimately knowledgeable about what actually happens.

Every professional NEEDS to get experience to gain experience. My point is NOT that we should not hire first year teachers - we should. We should also get rid of the bad teachers. Just like every company should get rid of their bad employees. No one is against that.

My real point, although very poorly made, is that we should not allow a first year teacher into a classroom by him or herself. It's not fair to the first year teacher, and it certainly does a disservice to the students in that person's classroom.

The coursework may be rigorous at university teacher prep programs, but the absolute fact is that there is no university teaching teachers the actual mechanics of teaching. Sure, those students have to learn theory and build portfolios etc. But THE most important thing you need to be able to do to teach is control and manage your classroom.

I can tell you unequivocally that NONE of the universities in this area are teaching those things. So, teachers who get student teachers have their classes used so that the classroom teachers can actually teach the student teachers how to run an effective classroom so that learning can take place. See, when a teacher is unable to effectively manage a classroom, learning suffers dramatically.

A program that puts first year teachers in the classroom of experienced teachers, so the first year teacher takes year long instruction and learns while working cooperatively with and under the guidance of an experienced teacher is something that makes a ton of sense. But that costs money.

It is the kind of visionary type program that the CMS BOE has failed to produce. But when only one member of the BOE actually knows something about what happens in the classroom, its no wonder they get led around by folks like Broad. Oh, and a $550,000 pay off never hurts when it comes to influencing some BOE members.

However, I think it perfectly logical to expect that having two caring, dedicated, hardworking professionals working together in a classroom might actually deliver serious positive dividends in the learning and achievement of the students in those classrooms.

And don't buy the lies, there are plenty of places in the CMS budget to cut, no matter what certain board members claim.

therestofthestory said...

WC, okay I better understand. So you are okay with the "district" developing the 2 standardized tests for that class that year? So with having 100+ districts in this state paying some few companies to make 200 tests doesn't seem faulty? Because the curriculum is state driven and the textbooks are all the same, it would seem to be more cost effective to have statewide semester tests that then "holds the student accountable". Now we are back to the original concept of the ABC tests except they were only end of year.

See this is a perfect example where 2 reasonable people in a discussion can come to a better understanding and probably a better solution than as the BOE and BOCC operates now that makes the conservatives give in with the help of the CO doing character assassination.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 10:00...

One simple question.

Where are you going to get the money to pay for dual teachers?

Wiley Coyote said...


I think you have the picture now.

That's why I said it isn't rocket science.

It's a simplified way to get some sort of measurement.

The state/CMS should be able to spot those classes/schools/teachers/students who performed at the state average and then those above and below.

No disruptions with gazillion tests and everyone has a stake in the process, with no group having a larger stake than the other.

You and I both know as well as everyone else EXCEPT our inept BOE, that their current path of PFP will never work.

Do you like the King's new clothes?