Teacher Equity: Where Do We Go From Here?

by Lorraine Richardson

This is an UPDATED version of a January 2, 2015 post titled: Needed- An Equitable and Stable Pipeline of Teachers.

As the American economy continues to be rocked by the unruly forces of technological change and global competition, state departments of education struggle with how to best prepare ALL students to succeed in the emerging economic environment. Of all the factors related to student success, teacher quality is listed as the most important and is continuously at the forefront of national conversations about school reform. What can be done to create/produce a pool of effective, quality teachers to prepare students for the tough new Common Core State Standards assessments that they face?

• Introduce performance-based pay?
• Privatize the profession (teacherpreneurs)?
• Eliminate seniority.?
• Eliminate or marginalize unions?
• Tie teachers’ tenure to student assessments?
• Create new/refine existing teacher assessment/evaluation tools?
• Establish teaching as an iconic profession like law or medicine?

As schools across America struggle with how to increase/improve teacher quality in order to prepare the next generation of taxpayers, Detroit and other urban districts struggle with a civil and human rights issue: How to best provide its classrooms with an EQUITABLE and STABLE PIPELINE of teachers! It is the elephant in the room reformers fail to consistently, persistently address. It’s the elephant that threatens to stampede any real chance for Detroit area school transformation, to stampede any chance for an economic comeback for ALL of Detroit.
In the words of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. , “Where do we go from here?”

No Equality Without Equity

No Equality Without Equity

The following is an excerpt of a Twitter educational chat in which I participated. I am @lyrichardson.

@edmoderator What are some of the big ideas, issues, questions we need to address in education at the new year?

@lyrichardson #Teacherequity in underserved communities. A STABLE pipeline of teaching talent is DESPERATELY needed. #retentionmatters

@suburbadmin @lyrichardson I agree with you. I lead in a more desirable district. I see the quality we are able to lure over. Hired many of them.

@lyrichardson @suburbadmin Sadly, teachers LEARN to teach on poor students. Take what they learn to more affluent schools. #noequalitywithoutequity

@edmoderator Should schools require teachers be college certified in order to teach? Are credentials necessary?

@suburbadmin Yes, teachers should go through a college certification process. I am for alternative paths for urban schools though.

@lyrichardson @suburbadmin Urban children need certified teachers too.#Teacherequity is crucial.

@suburbadmin @lyrichardson I am sorry. All teachers should be college certified.

For me, this chat exchange brought to the forefront that the mission for acquiring teaching talent in American schools takes place in a fiercely competitive arena. All demographics: urban, suburban, private, rural are challenged with recruiting and retaining teachers over time. Not only are Americans competing with the billions of new capitalists unleashed since the fall of the Berlin wall, but are competing with one another for teachers. Now it is poor districts vs. rich districts; David vs. Goliath.
Hopefully, the new Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children appointed by the governor will work to articulate a point of view concerning this moral challenge. Hopefully, the Coalition can/will create best practices and policies to win the war for teaching talent for Detroit area schools. The economic future of Detroit’s children depends on its schools’ ability to:

Equitably deploy,
Support, and
Retain teaching talent over time Across ALL Detroit schools.

Backstory: Turnover Patterns
Attrition, defined as teachers who are in the classroom year one but by year two and beyond have abandoned the teaching profession, is a costly phenomenon. According to the U.S. Dept of Education, the five-year national attrition rate for new teachers hovers around fifty percent; however, in neighborhoods beset by high unemployment and skyrocketing homelessness, the new teacher attrition rate is closer to fifty percent every THREE years. Annually, more than $2.6 billion of taxpayers’ money is spent nationally on teachers who abandon the field (Alliance for Excellent Education).
Teacher turnover, different from attrition, can be defined as teachers who are involuntarily transferred (school closures for example) from one school to another or who voluntarily move from one district to another in search of better working conditions and/or better compensation (above chat). That too is an expensive American phenomenon, more than $5 billion annually.(Alliance for Excellent Education)
Scarce taxpayer dollars are spent on constant recruiting, on replacing, on special incentives, on teacher processing (criminal background checks, health checks, reference checks) teacher orientation, AND professional development that walks out the door.

Attrition, Teacher Turnover Are Like Leaky Buckets

Attrition, Teacher Turnover Are Like Leaky Buckets

Playing an Unfair Game
Urban (Detroit) schools, fatigued and overwhelmed by Turnaround Models, School Closure Models, Restart Models, face an onslaught of teachers and administrators moved about like pawns on a chessboard.
For how many years have Detroit educators been released/ downsized at the end of the school year? (Can we really downsize our way to excellence?)Those who do not abandon teaching altogether (attrition) or the district (turnover) often are not deployed until August, September or beyond. What is the impact of this attrition, this turnover? It is classrooms without teachers for weeks and sometimes months, crowded classrooms (40 or more), and unprepared teachers who don’t receive their assignment until the last minute. It is a syndrome/pattern that destabilizes schools and creates #inequity of educational opportunity, morally indefensible. We put a man on the moon, but we don’t seem able to deploy teachers to classrooms in a timely fashion. Why?
How can reform models or pilots, on which taxpayers spend billions, take hold if educators are moved around or eliminated like pawns on a chessboard? What is the annual budget in Detroit for reform models or pilots? Can we keep track of any actionable and meaningful data if the cast and location of educators keeps changing?
Can we disrupt the-school-to-prison pipeline with a system that produces a revolving door of novice teachers who don’t stick around long enough to learn to reroute student misbehavior, student misconduct?

Teacher Talent Management – Write a New Song

This summer I had an exchange with a young Detroit teacher who shared with me that she had been teaching for seven years and was the most senior teacher in her school – UNBELIEVABLE! She was on her third school – INDEFENSIBLE! When I inquired about her schedule for next year, she looked perplexed. I shared with her that when I taught (I am retired) the union insisted teachers know their schedules before leaving in June. It gives teachers a chance to rework old lessons, plan new ones, attend content specific workshops, read the research. “Sounds phenomenal”, she gushed, “However, I have never taught in a school where that was a practice.” SAD!

Write a New Talent Management Song

Write a New Talent Management Song

Another talent mismanagement practice that needs rewriting is the repeated movement/reassignment of teachers from one grade level to another and from one content area to another that demoralizes teachers and negatively impacts students struggling hardest to catch up.
Hopefully, the Coalition can/will create clear and fair practices that determine how teachers are assigned to:
Single-grade, single-subject, in-field assignments VS. How teachers (often new) are assigned to teach more challenging schedules:
Teaching split grades, teaching multiple subjects, teaching out-of-field courses for which they are not prepared.

How can teachers develop the deep mastery needed to be effective grade level or content area specialists if they are shuffled about like interchangeable parts? How can the teamwork/teambuilding which is essential to the success of any organization take hold? Without a clear a policy, are both teachers and students being set up to fail?

Whether through attrition, never ending transfers, or repeated internal reassignments, constant turnover disrupts the continuity, cohesiveness, humanity, institutional memory, and stability of a school. It is a syndrome that creates an inequity of educational opportunity for Detroit area students. Sadly, this pattern is ambient noise in so many urban schools.

No reasonable person will dispute that some turnover is beneficial – fresh blood and new ideas rid a school of stagnancy. However, can we really address the “turnaround challenge” if every time we turnaround, a school is rebuilding its staff? Can we really leave no child behind without the leadership, vision, and strategic planning needed to recruit, to equitably deploy, to support, and to retain teaching talent over time?

A Chance to Make History
Public education in a democratic society is based on the principle that EVERY child is of equal and incalculable value. Secretary of State Arne Duncan has declared that education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. Thus, Detroit is facing down a complex challenge other urban school districts also face. During the industrial economy, Detroit’s educational system developed the workforce that put the world on wheels and in the process created a new middle class. Can the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren help Detroit make history again? Will it be the catalyst needed to usher in a new set of best practices and/or policies for an equitable and stable pipeline of teachers – needed to prepare ALL Detroit school children to be contributing participants in the NEW world order? Some suggestions:
• Create dashboards to track the amount of money spent on repeatedly filling the same positions.
• Track/chart the percentage of teachers who leave EACH Detroit school EACH year.
• Create an online platform for framing conversations concerning attrition and teacher turnover patterns (crowdsource)
• Create structures that impede teachers from quitting or taking their teaching capital to other districts.
• Develop surveys to document why so many Detroit area teachers abandon the district/the profession.
• Create discussion boards to determine solutions to this societal challenge. (crowdsource).

“Where DO We Go From Here?” Will It Be:

#Taleof2Cities ? OR #DetReinvented ?

Needed: An EQUITABLE and STABLE Pipeline of Teachers

TOWARDS AN EQUITABLE AND STABLE Pipeline of Teachers in Urban (Detroit) Schools !
by Lorraine Richardson

This Post has been removed because I updated it on January 9, 2015. Please click on the link to read the most recent version. Teacher Equity Where Do We Go from Here http://tinyurl.com/o493udj


Testing Moratorium – Righting a Wrong! Pt. 2

The goal of this article is to frame a conversation around a MORATORIUM on TESTING, especially in urban communities. I have attempted to identify reasons why we need to temporarily cease this destructive practice. Written in bold letters are questions that you might want to pose with friends, church members, policy makers, social group members, community leaders. Perhaps it might inspire you to write a letter the editor of your local paper or to lawmakers. Our voices need to be heard. We must begin to ADVOCATE for our children. We must begin to RIGHT THIS WRONG.

Discovering Gifts Instead of Gaps
As we attempt to prepare all students to become participating members of a new economy, I wonder,on what potentially negative paths we are sending our students using a system that measures only “gaps” instead “gifts”, that sorts children and their teachers into winners and losers? How can we right this wrong?
Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University wrote the internationally acclaimed, Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In this groundbreaking book, he defines intelligence as the ability to solve problems and or to provide a product that is valued by a community or culture: not only linguistic or mathematic-logical intelligence but musical intelligence, spatial/artistic intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal/intrapersonal intelligence . Therefore, ALL students enter the school house with a variety of strengths (intelligences). What is our just and ethical obligation to educate, to prepare our children? Should the goal of schools be to maximize the assets, gifts that students bring to the school house or only those that serve a larger political agenda: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) saying, “No” to STE(Arts)M?
Imagine, starting in third grade students are now tested ONLY in art, athleticism, and music. Annually to demonstrate their artistic/spatial intelligence, they must create a painting or a piece of sculpture. Annually, to exhibit their athleticism, (bodily kinesthetic) students must excel at a sport or choreograph and perform a dance. Annually, to prove their musical intelligence, students must sing a variety of songs or excel using a musical instrument. Each year the tests become progressively more demanding and challenging.
By high school, too many potential L(earners) and potential taxpayers can no longer keep up; no longer desire to keep up. Students ponder why schools don’t emphasize science, math, or language arts- subjects which they enjoy and could excel, subjects that are eliminated whenever the budget is cut. Those armed with interpersonal intelligence (politicians/leaders) contemplate why schools lack a student government to provide opportunities in visioning, leading, and extemporaneous speaking. They reflect, “How do politician and community leaders get started solving the problems of the community or the greater society? Is it all on the job training? Do adults fear civil disobedience if students learn to frame and verbalize their concerns?

Drop-outs: Invisible and Impotent

Imagine a potential Barack Obama/Bill Clinton (interpersonal intelligence) a Toni Morrison/Doris Kearns (linguistic intelligence) or Bill Gates/Mark Zuckerburg (mathematical-logical intelligence) dropping out of high school because they lack the intelligence to perform satisfactorily on tests designed for a Jacob Lawrence/Andy Warhol (artistic intelligence) or Judith Jamison/Michael Phelps (bodily-kinesthetic) or YoYo Ma/Quincy Jones (musical intelligence). Defeated and demoralized, these talented young people find new avenues for their energies and their angst. Harnessing their gifts to start a gang, quieting the loneliness by becoming a parent, drifting into a life of crime, wandering onto a path of self-destruction and violent behavior Their feelings of impotence and invisibility contribute to their schools being labeled failing and billions of dollars are spent on reform/restructuring. Will our students be the next bubble?

Towards New/Different Systems of Assessments
Education is at the epicenter of both our democracy and our prosperity. I do understand that America’s survival depends on educating for STEM, to keep us from being at the mercy of foreign tyrants. However, does that mean daily learning should be confined to a limited number of subjects and that our schools should only honor a limited range of talents? I believe to do so constitutes “educational malpractice”. How do we create different reporting systems to parents? For example:

o Jabari is struggling in math but is performing well in music.
o Jabari needs to practice his dance skills more but his persuasive writing skills have improved.
o Jabari is progressing in both reading and in art.

The 21st century INVISIBLE CURRICULUM needed to prosper in a globally competitive, technology-base economy require teaching students: To court failure! To take risks! To embrace uncertainty and change! To out hustle the competition!

How do we instill AND assess this new covert curriculum?

How do we put children born into significant disadvantage on equal footing with other children so that they won’t always be subjected to an “achievement gap”? Or to the School-to-Prison Pipeline?

Moratorium Now
Educating students for the industrial economy was difficult enough. Arguably, educating students in the 21st century has to be the most difficult mission in America today. I plead that until a more just/fair/impartial assessment systems are in place, we institute a moratorium on a performance-based culture that penalizes both children and teachers. We don’t want our children and teachers to be the next bubble.

A sign on the wall in Albert Einstein’s stated it best: Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

@lyrichardson/ twitter

Moratorium on Testing ! Part One by Lorraine Richardson

The goal of this article is to frame a conversation around a MORATORIUM on TESTING, especially in urban communities. I have attempted to identify reasons why we need to temporarily cease this destructive practice. Written in bold letters are questions that you might want to pose with friends, church members, policy makers, social group members, community leaders. Perhaps it might inspire you to write a letter the editor of your local paper or to lawmakers. Our voices need to be heard.

Will Children and Their Teachers Be the Next Bubble?

The industrial capitalism was the greatest era of prosperity Americans ever experienced. Designed to prepare ALL students to share in the prosperity of an industrial economy, schools and their teachers taught basic skills and rote memorization to the masses and a critical thinking, problem-solving curriculum to the cognitively and economically elite. A daily, COVERT curriculum of silence, obedience, stillness, rigid uniformity, and punctuality prepared both groups to TAKE ORDERS WITHOUT QUESTION from a foreman in a plant or from a manager in an office. The industrial economy was a social and economic context in which schools/teachers were neither expected to nor needed to educate ALL children equally and well. However, because of the unruly forces of globalization and technological change, this schoolhouse model/mission is gone with the wind.

Birth of a New Educational Civilization
After Industrialism died and along with it a prosperous way of life, alarmed stakeholders: foundations, educators, business people, politicians, parents rushed to birth a new narrative.

How do we prepare ALL students to succeed in a Post-Industrial World? Because the price of prosperity is no longer automatic submission to authority, what new covert curriculum do we need to institute for students? What should the new educational baby/ system look like: Charter schools? Vouchers? Performance Pay? Accountability systems? Technology? Better Funding? Eliminate Unions?

Continue reading

Separate and Unequal 2.0 by Lorraine Richardson

Because of budget cuts, state departments of education seek less costly methods of educating students. Poor and minority students too often bear the brunt of such belt tightening. In urban schools across the nation, low performing school districts populated by the poor and children of color are being formed. They receive much of their instruction through technology (vendor capitalism) with such schools being staffed by underprepared and overwhelmed educators who receive few of the benefits and compensation packages of surrounding school districts.



Here in Michigan, the Educational Achievement Authority School District (EAA) was formed under the sponsorship of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) at the direction of the governor. I believe that the EAA promotes ethically and legally indefensible practices that uphold separate and unequal. It’s version 2.0.

Legally Indefensible?
In 2002, with the goal of improving ALL American schools, former President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). According to the legislation, students are to be tested and schools that don’t make adequate yearly progress each year are to be sanctioned. Another NCLB provision addresses inequitable distribution of the nation’s best teachers. Poor and minority children are not to be taught by the least experienced teachers at a greater rate than their peers in more affluent school districts. The legislation calls for equitable distribution of experienced teachers in our nation’s schools. Yet, the EAA has filled its schools with a revolving door of apprentices, beginners, novices (built-in attrition) primarily from the TFA pipeline which is against NCLB and legally indefensible. Where is the MDE equity plan to address teacher disparity? Who is monitoring this part of the legislation? How can we “Leave No Child Behind” without a stable pipeline of experienced teachers?

Urban Schools: A Farm System?
Sadly, many of these teachers use urban schools as a farm system, to learn the rudiments of teaching/running a school and then move on to greener pastures: Moving to a higher paying, wealthier school district; Building a resume to run for school board further disenfranchising local parents; Building credentials in order to create an educational for profit or non-profit to advise and/or staff urban schools. Michele Rhee is the most prominent example. After a two-year stint with Teach for America, she created The New Teacher Project to staff urban schools with new teachers. From there she went on to become the high-profile chancellor of Washington D.C Public Schools. And after that she formed the Students First nonprofit to champion urban “reform”. Unfortunately, so many of the “reformers” do not resemble the population they are “reforming”.

Still Separate and Unequal?
How can Detroit and other urban schools prepare students for a globally competitive, technology-based economy with a patchwork quilt of inexperienced and transient educators? In an April 22, 2014, Detroit News article, Dr. Thomas Pedroni of Wayne State University outlines how EAA scores are at the very bottom: EAA Test Scores Show District’s Weaknesses

Teachers hold the power to reroute the School-to-Prison Pipeline. How can a core of sorely unprepared and temporary teachers be responsible to divert or reroute students and their behavior away from suspensions and the school-to-prison pipeline? (April 5, 2013 Detroit News article: Student Behavior Not Making Grade at EAA Schools – chronicles over 5000 discipline-related infractions across 15 schools)

So I ask, beyond balancing the budget, why are experienced teachers REALLY being offered incentives to retire?

And so, in Michigan, is the EAA part of a dual system that further promotes inequities and disparities for poor children and children of color?
Sixty (60) years later, on the anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education, how many urban schools are STILL Separate and Unequal? If so, what can be done to reroute this societal challenge?

@lyrichardson Twitter