Teacher, principal, and DOE views on current state of the EES system

See more about how EES impacts teachers at http://www.hsta.org/news/oahu-teachers-demand-course-correction


HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

ISLAND VOICES


1.) Teacher - Tune out politics to discover harm school reform really has wrought


By Alan Isbell

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 20, 2014

Tune out the political noise about so-called improvements to Hawaii public schools and the truth can be heard that the reform touted here is actually roundly despised by those directly affected at the bottom.

An independent survey by two retired Hawaii principals found that most of Hawaii’s public school principals are echoing the harsh criticism made earlier by teachers that the reform handed down from above is quite possibly doing far more harm than good.

Last week, this newspaper reported, “The school leaders say their ability to make decisions at the school level has been stymied by ‘top-down’ management by the Department of Education, and that sweeping academic reforms the state pledged for its federal Race to the Top grant have dragged down morale at their schools” (“Principals feel they’re hamstrung, survey finds,” Star-Advertiser, May 15).

Teacher responses to a joint survey recently undertaken by the DOE and Hawaii State Teachers Association on the current Educator Effectiveness System (EES) were equally critical.

The obvious had to be stated, apparently, but still might not be heard from above. DOE Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe was quoted as saying feedback from the DOE’s most recent survey “shows that principals believe that the department is improving and that our strategic direction is the right approach.”

Really? The new, independent survey was based on responses by 63 percent of the principals of the state’s 255 public schools, and 94 percent of them said teacher evaluations have negatively affected morale.

Responses from 75.5 percent had implementation of Race to the Top reforms, especially the new performance-based evaluation system for teachers, as having harmed their schools. That overwhelming majority also said they lack the needed support and autonomy to act in the best interests of their schools, but hesitate to speak out for fear of retaliation.

During a forum recently on Maui, Alvin Shima, the district superintendent in charge of most of Maui’s schools, told a sizable crowd of angry teachers “We are not the enemy.” Who is, then?

If the teachers, the principals and local DOE people are distancing themselves from this system, we have to go to people who have the power to foist an unpopular, inefficient and inequitable boondoggle on the lower echelon, as well as the taxpayers footing the bill.

It may be too easy to single out Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and her deputies. The superintendent answers to the Hawaii Board of Education, which Gov. Neil Abercrombie purposefully loaded with business executives. Now, on a recent trip here, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held Hawaii up as an example for the nation to follow. Are the people calling the shots really listening?

Even Charlotte Danielson, the creator of what the DOE is using as its basis for observing teachers in their classrooms, has said her methods were never meant for performance-based evaluation. And using it piecemeal, as Hawaii has, could lead to litigation, she has warned. Danielson was ignored. So have been the teachers who have been shouting their dismay, and who already are leaving the profession in disgust.

Now the principals have made themselves clear.

Is anybody listening?

2.) PRINCIPALS:  Public school leaders must be empowered to achieve success

By Darrel Galera, John Sosa, Penelope Tom, RandiAnn Porras-Tang and Randall Roth

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 20, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 02:35 a.m. HST, May 20, 2014

A recent survey of public school principals reveals frustration with the way Hawaii’s highly centralized Department of Education functions.

The Star-Advertiser has made the survey results available to the public on its website, including each of the 347 specific comments by individual principals (see bit.ly/1nZLBle). They lay bare a “command and control” mentality at the top: Two out of three principals say they fear retaliation if they express disagreement with systemwide leadership.

Public education in Hawaii should be among the very best in the nation.

Why are the public schools not thriving?

All roads lead to a dysfunctional governance system. Nowhere else do politicians and bureaucrats wield so much control over not just how money is spent, but how children are educated.

Barely half of the $3 billion in expenditures actually gets to the classrooms each year. Central bureaucrats, who in many cases have never served in a school or as a principal, force teachers and principals to fit every student into one-size-fits-all improvement models.

The most recent one includes unworkable accountability systems and constant testing in limited areas, simply to gather “data” that has little to do with actual learning.

Many educators have called for school empowerment over the past 40 years. Piecemeal initiatives have been enacted by the Legislature, though not embraced by the DOE for lasting effect. Examples include School Community Based Management and School Community Councils that were promptly sabotaged by central administrators.

The Reinventing Education Act of 2004 was supposed to move decision-making closer to the schools, yet the DOE is now more centralized than ever.

Charter schools were supposed to be free to innovate. Now they are increasingly subject to one-size-fits-all, bureaucratic meddling and requirements not unlike the straitjacket restrictions long imposed on the regular schools.

Empowered schools require a systemwide culture of high expectations, visionary and adaptive leadership, and technology innovation at all levels.

The teaching profession will need to be elevated. Quality training tailored to the needs of teachers, principals, and senior leadership will be essential. Leaders of empowerment must not just drive the bus but fill all the seats.

Principals in particular must fully embrace the responsibilities that will come with centering the funding at the school level. Newly adopted performance contracts that clarify the basis on which each principal will be held accountable are a good first step.

None of this necessarily requires additional funding. With true school empowerment, at least 90 cents out of each education dollar must be spent at the school level.

Unions are not the problem, but the people on both sides need to begin each day jointly pledging to put the interests of the children ahead of the interests of the adults — and mean it!

Perhaps you are wondering who is going to make sure all this happens. Prior to 2011, ultimate power over public education was evenly spread among an elected Board of Education, the Legislature, and the governor. Each had just enough power individually to frustrate the other two, but not enough to be held accountable for results.

Because of a constitutional amendment in 2010, each member of the Board of Education now serves at the pleasure of the governor. So finally it is possible to hold an elected official accountable for the success or failure of our public education system.

We propose that the public demand that the governor finally do what has eluded the state for decades: Empower schools.

The public must insist that the governor back up his words with a comprehensive plan of action, including measurable milestones on the way to spending 90 cents of every education dollar at the school level.

The system will not reform itself. It never has and never will.

Even with the governor’s support, we will need bottom-up leadership that is first and foremost committed to school empowerment, and selfless leadership at the top that wants to work themselves out of a job.

None of this will be easy, but must be done — for the future of Hawaii and its children.


3.) DOE - Educators’ voices matter, and DOE is paying attention

By Kathryn Matayoshi

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 20, 2014

Hawaii has good reason to be proud of the progress made by our public schools over the last decade.

A quick snapshot of our achievements include: higher graduation rates; more students taking Advanced Placement classes; more students passing AP tests; unprecedented growth on national assessments in math and reading; more students enrolling in college; and fewer students needing college remediation.

Recently, one vice principal simply but enthusiastically said, “Things are really happening at this school.”

He’s right. Good things are happening — not just at his school, but across the public school system. Lifting the load are our principals and teachers whose dedication to their profession has proved that when there is a strategic approach to success, progress will take place.

So, it’s a shame that anyone would discount the irrefutable results in our schools and the hard work of our educators instead of celebrating these successes.

We stand behind our efforts to enact transformative changes that will give Hawaii’s students the first-class education system they deserve. At the beginning of this school year, 87 percent of educational officers agreed the state Department of Education (DOE) is on the right track to ensure all students graduate college- and career-ready.

There’s no question that this has been a difficult year for educators, particularly with respect to our new staff evaluation systems: the Educator Effectiveness System (EES) and the Comprehensive Evaluation System for School Administrators (CESSA). There is an increased burden on adults, and we are working to address this. But we believe these systems will reap big educational dividends for our students and we have the professional capacity and skills to make these improvements.

Large-scale transformational work requires all of us — both in and outside of the Department of Education — to work together. When the conversation devolves into finger-pointing rather than problem-solving, it creates a divisive environment that pits educators against each other.

Educators’ voices matter. We have taken several steps to build informal support and new ways for school administrators and teachers to provide real, constructive feedback that can be used. A few examples:

» Dedicated funding and regular planning meetings for the long-standing Middle and High School Principals Forum to maximize principal participation.

» Establishment of a principals’ advisory group to provide direct feedback to the deputy superintendent throughout the year on a range of topics.

» Principal sessions for a detailed conversation about the challenges and possible solutions for improving the EES to complement other feedback we received from teachers.

» Regular convening of the Teacher Leader Workgroup — more than 75 excellent teachers from across the state — to inform the EES.

» A DOE and Hawaii State Teachers Association joint committee to review progress and necessary EES improvements.

We’re in the process of translating feedback into system enhancements that will reduce burden and build support for teacher success.

Principals and teachers have heard us say we want to work together to find opportunities for more collaboration, more joint advocacy, and better solutions. But we are also clear — we need problem-solvers.

During his visit, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan summed it up best when he stated, “The only way you get better is to challenge the status quo. The only way to accelerate the change is to do something different and that sounds easy (but) that is hard to do.”

We’ve challenged the status quo at the DOE because we know we can do better through honesty, transparency, collaboration and a relentless focus on results for students.

We invite the community to learn more about these efforts here:

» Strategic Plan: http://bit.ly/DOEBOEstratplan

» EES: http://bit.ly/HIDOEEES

» CESSA: http://bit.ly/DOECESSA