March 15, 2011

Like a Profession, or Something

Justin Katz

The specifics could be adjusted elsewhere, but the general attitude that Julia Steiny describes at Blackstone Valley Preparatory Charter School, although there's no revolutionary "paradigm change," as the education academics like to contrive, seems like a profound shift. Note, especially, the handling of the teaching professionals:

... at Blackstone Valley the two-teacher classroom [with more students] is the beginning of a leadership-development continuum designed to grow each teacher's responsibility, autonomy, compensation and personal goals. New or "fellow" teachers plan and teach, but also learn alongside an experienced "lead" teacher. As lead teachers become even more practiced, they might become grade leaders for common planning time, or run professional development, or research a new technique and teach it to the others. Eventually, master teachers could become a Head of School. ...

So everyone in the organization has goals. Chiappetta says, "Some of our people want to be lifelong classroom teachers, so we'll support them becoming master teachers. Others say, 'I want to go to med school in a few years and be a pediatrician, with teaching experience under my belt.' Right now, three teachers leave early to take classes for their graduate degrees, and make up the time on Saturdays. We want to help you invest in yourself and move forward."

Gone is the rigid put-in-your-time factory model of public schools in general. At least by the impression that Steiny gives, the school hires the best candidate for each position, and being human beings, they're each potentially approaching the job from different backgrounds and with different plans. The administrators keep the project on track and are accountable for their results, because if their faculty doesn't succeed, students won't sign up.

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Wow. Are there little teddy bears cavorting about throwing rose petals into the air too?

Posted by: Phil at March 15, 2011 6:46 AM

My wife taught math and was a resource teacher at Blackstone on a permanent part-time basis after subbing there.
She grew up speaking English and Spanish simultaneously so it came in handy.She had previously subbed at Providence schools and another charter school in Providence and thought that Blackstone did a pretty good job considering that they drew on a similar demographic that attends Central Falls HS.They sent all the students who were planning on attending college to such institutions-not a bad result in RI these days.
Phil-it's not surprising you'd make a crass remark about someplace you probably have exactly zero knowledge of;but I guess it's because you react to the words "charter school"like one of Pavlov's dogs to a bell.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 15, 2011 7:41 AM

"Are there little teddy bears cavorting about throwing rose petals into the air too?"

What a sad commentary on the condition of our public schools (and the teacher selection process therein) when a properly functioning school is apparently so rare that it can be mocked as a child's tale.

RI private school teachers do not face exactly the same conditions as public school teachers. HOWEVER. RI public school teachers face exactly the same conditions as public school teachers in the other 56 states. The question, accordingly, (and it's funny how the teachers unions, so anxious to make other comparisons, are notably silent on this, the most important, one), is:

Why does student achievement in RI rank in the bottom 20% (or worse) while public teacher pay rank in the top 20%?

Posted by: Monique at March 15, 2011 7:55 AM


Thanks for more of your life history. I responded to this line:

"Gone is the rigid put-in-your-time factory model of public schools in general."

Somewhat insulting to many people who work in public schools wouldn't you say. In your vast background you must have come across public school teachers and principles along the way which qualifies one of many opinions.

Posted by: Phil at March 15, 2011 7:57 AM

Typically, the Lefty high-school kid has nothing to contribute to the conversation but has to indulge in his political Tourette's anyway.

Charter schools are pointing the road to a real future for our children.

It's a sorry state when real life imitates Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, but that's where the public schools are today.

Posted by: BobN at March 15, 2011 7:59 AM

56 states?

Posted by: Triplerichard at March 15, 2011 8:41 AM

According to your left wing President, there are 57 states not including Alaska and Hawaii and please learn how to use your computer. Your multiple postings are becoming an irritant.

Posted by: Max Diesel at March 15, 2011 9:30 AM

"Gone is the rigid put-in-your-time factory model of public schools in general."

Well, it's clear you don't know much about how factories were actually run. Quotas and goals were prevalent until fairly recently when folks like Deming launched the process improvement focus in these industries (e.g. 6 Sigma, lean manufacturing, etc.).

So what changed? Surprise! They got rid of the goals.

From Deming's 14 Points:

11. a. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
12. a. Remove barriers that rob the hourly paid worker of his right to pride in workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and engineering of their right to pride in workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and management by objective.

The only goals that should be used are those that represent absolutes, such as the carbon monoxide level in the room should not excede x ppm.

What irony that the right thinks they are moving away from a factory model while actually implementing the same failed factory model techniques.

Posted by: Russ at March 15, 2011 10:36 AM

phil-I REALLY don't get your point other than mocking my life experience just because I didn't go through my existence being unconscious to what was going on.
I did have various teachers and PRINCIPALS and they were well....various.Some good,some not.
I do know that my wife still hears from some of her students(she left to collect Social Security a few years ago)and when we run into one of them around the city they seem tohave appreciated her efforts.I met a lot of the staff and they seemed very dedicated and engaged-a lot of them came from places like Brown,Yale,etc and are mostly what I'd call liberal-I don't have tunnel vision like some people Phil.
russ-is every thing in your world right/left?Really,breathe.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 15, 2011 11:03 AM

"russ-is every thing in your world right/left?"

Um, so Justin is not someone speaking from the right? If you prefer, substitute "Justin" for "the right" in that sentence.

But to your point, in this case it's not right/left; it's right/wrong. My argument is based on my professional opinion and my experience with numerous quality improvement efforts that all that matters is "by what method?"

Posted by: Russ at March 15, 2011 11:10 AM


Joe, I don't lose any sleep over this. My kids (well one atm) are in East Side private schools where so far I've never seen a grade nor a standardized test score.

If it will make you feel better for me to add something positive about the above, I'm all for the idea of leadership development. But then Justin goes off on his usually (and flawed) meme on "accountability," which is a horribly counterproductive idea.

Posted by: Russ at March 15, 2011 11:16 AM

Max he is our president.

Posted by: Triplerichard at March 15, 2011 11:17 AM

"Why does student achievement in RI rank in the bottom 20% (or worse) while public teacher pay rank in the top 20%?"

Monique, there actually -is- a good reason for this. And you folks know that I'm all for accountability and tightening-up things at the public schools. Rhode Island has the highest proportion of urban students to suburban ones. Even though we're considered a 'rich' state, we have a huge portion of our public school students coming from dense, poor neighborhoods with single parents or families that can't spend time with their kids. That's the biggest determining factor in student success, so I can see why even if we did 'fix' the schools, we're still going to spend more resources to get the same results than a more suburban state would have.

Posted by: mangeek at March 15, 2011 11:26 AM

russ-glad you can afford to send your kid to private schools,although there are some real good public schools.the students at Blackstone can't afford Wheeler,Moses Brown,etc so this is the best they can do.
I have to tell you i know next to nothing about management other than a public admin course I took in the 70's.
I know some charter schools suck and others are outstanding-you just cannot generalize.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 15, 2011 11:55 AM

"Max he is our president."

Then why did so many American people on the left tell me, 2-10 years ago, "Bush isn't my president!"

Posted by: Patrick at March 15, 2011 12:39 PM

Patrick-he may be the President of the US,and maybe he's Stuart's(3R) President,but he sure is doing a lousy job and needs to be kicked out in 2012.
I find it impossible to have any respect for him.
With all the crap going on the world,Obama is busy making March Madness picks.Maybe get in a round of golf or two also,and let's not forget the Wednsday cocktail party.
This guy's priorities are all f**ked up.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 15, 2011 12:49 PM

Russ engages in the lie that the Republicans wrote the No Child Left... law. It was written by Ted Kennedy's staff and some long-time, career bureaucrats (probably Dems) in the Carter-created Dept. of Education.

In fact, everything that Russ says he doesn't like about the present education system is exactly what he has said he likes about Obamacare. But he'd never admit the contradiction.

Posted by: BobN at March 15, 2011 1:37 PM

Joe, I have a kid with a learning difference, which kind of forced the issue. fwiw, I went to public school and also attended a public university.

BobN clearly doesn't know me very well. I'm not a big fan of Obama, his healthcare reform proposal, or his education policy (I could go on), although probably not for the same reasons as the angry right.

Posted by: Russ at March 15, 2011 2:40 PM

russ-I apologize if you think I was being a smartass about a private school-if you can swing it,why not?I was satisfied with the grde school my kids attended.
howeever,my daughter got into Classical which was(and still is)a great school.
My son went to Central where he quit and got a GED.
I think we all want to do the best that we can for our family.
If I want to bust your balls,it will not involve anything about your children.
The alternatives for the kids at Balckstone are Tolman,Shea,or CF.
Actually some of the students come from other areas too.
My impression of the staff was that they really wanted to educate the students.
My wife grew up being the defacto head of a household from age 14 or so due to circumstances she had no control over,so she was a good resource teacher.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 15, 2011 4:58 PM
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