An Essay on Equity and Justice for Diverse Children in Urban Poverty
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
EducationNews.org Advisory Board Member
The paper argues that the growth and maintenance of 120 failed urban school districts miseducating diverse children in poverty for over half a century is a predictable, explainable phenomenon not a series of accidental, unfortunate, chance events. The extensive resources funneled into these systems are used for the purpose of increasing the district bureaucracies themselves rather than improving the schools or the education of the children. This massive, persisting failure has generated neither the effort nor the urgency which the stated values of American society would lead us to expect. Instead, the larger society provides the institutional and cultural setting which protects, preserves and enhances these failing urban school systems for the purpose of providing a broad spectrum of constituencies with a priceless set of unearned privileges. The most valuable of these is access to economically and ethnically segregated forms of schooling for middle-class whites which is effective and does lead to careers, higher education and improved life opportunities. Part I. of the paper provides examples of the processes used by dysfunctional urban school bureaucracies to survive and grow in spite of systematically destroying the life opportunities of seven million diverse children and youth in poverty. Part II. identifies some of the constituencies who derive real benefits from supporting these failed systems. Part III. analyzes the processes employed by failing urban districts to prevent change and maintain the distribution of unearned privilege. Part IV. presents an analysis of the role teacher education can play in making urban schools more effective. Part V. (plus Appendix A) concludes with a proposal for what might be done by states to stop the massive miseducation of diverse children in poverty in dysfunctional urban school districts.
The Problem Nationally
On September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia claimed the lives of over 2,795 innocent civilians. But every day of the school year an average of 3,000 innocent civilians drop out of high school and very few take notice. America’s greatest crisis is a silent one. While a majority of these youngsters are white, African America and Latino students are conspicuously over-represented. By the end of the school year as many as 500,000 tenth to twelfth graders will have “disappeared”. My estimate is that this horrendous statistic is matched by an equal number of those who never appear in any drop-out data because they have never made it into high school. They are the victims of failed middle schools using high stakes testing as an admission barrier into failing high schools.
9/11 clearly identified who were the perpetrators and who were the victims. In death by miseducation the blame for failing urban school districts is placed on the victims and their families who are accused of perpetrating their own demise. 9/11 evoked new national priorities and new ways of reaching them. Miseducation generates the same tired slogans and applies the same failed solutions even more assiduously. 9/11 brought forth a rebirth of patriotism and togetherness against those who would seek to destroy our concept of unity. Death by miseducation evokes an equally powerful commitment to preserve our way of life by making success in school a personal rather than a common good. In response to 9/11 America has committed itself to making significant changes in the way we will live. In response to death by miseducation America remains committed to protecting archaic, failed urban school districts from any significant change.
Fourteen million diverse children in poverty represent the overwhelming majority of the miseducated. The seven million in urban poverty, disproportionately represented by children of color, attend school in the 120 largest school districts. Every one of these districts is a failing school system in which greater size correlates positively with greater failure. Every miseducated child represents a personal tragedy. Each will have a lifelong struggle to ever have a job that pays enough to live in a safe neighborhood, have adequate health insurance, send their own children to better schools than they went to, or have a decent retirement. In most cases their lives are limited to dead end jobs, or wasted away in street violence or prison. Living in the midst of the most prosperous nation on earth, the miseducated will live shorter lives characterized by greater stress and limited life options. Miseducation is, in effect, a sentence of death carried out daily over a lifetime. It is the most powerful example I know of cruel and unusual punishment and it is exacted on children innocent of any crime. Most Americans avoid the personal tragedy aspect of this massive miseducation by not sending their own children to school in these failing urban districts. This includes a majority of the teachers who work in them! In effect, those with options cope with miseducation as a personal tragedy by fleeing the major urban districts in order to protect their loved ones from the contamination of miseducation. While flight can appear to be a successful strategy for coping with miseducation as a personal tragedy it does not address the question of how miseducating other people’s children on this massive scale affects the survival of the total society. Every three years the number of dropouts and pushouts adds up to a city bigger than Chicago. For how long can a society continue to create cities the size of Chicago every three years filled with “no hopers” and still survive as either a free or a prosperous nation?
The question of why a society that defines itself as caring, compassionate and committed to equal opportunity can continue to educationally destroy the life chances of millions of its own children is extremely difficult to understand and even harder to explain. When the dimension of being willing to risk our very survival as a nation is added, one can only conclude that most Americans perceive benefits from this miseducation that outweigh the damages they see being inflicted on individuals and society. What might these benefits be? Who might be the beneficiaries?
Part I. Dysfunctional Bureaucracy
Every one of the major urban school districts suffers from a disease that might appropriately be termed dysfunctional bureaucracy. The districts are the carriers but never die. The children and society at large are the victims. Even when states take over particular urban schools districts the best they can do is put the disease into remission. Takeovers are only temporary palliatives and in a few years, or less, dysfunctional bureaucracies reappear in altered forms ever more resistant to change strategies and more virulent. Dysfunctional bureaucracy is a disease which feeds itself on the resources it should be distributing to the schools it is ostensibly serving. Failing urban school districts are now so intricately interwoven into the fabric of our social, economic and political institutions that to transform them would require changing every level of government and since public education is the biggest business in America, simply stopping the miseducation would impact every facet of our economy. Maintaining these failing districts ensures that the present system for distributing life opportunities among the constituencies of society will remain as it is. As a result, these failing urban systems are immutable to change except in superficial ways for temporary periods.
At the same time, every failing urban school district has some successful schools within it. But the successes of these individual schools can never be disseminated throughout the entire district because it is the very process of scaling up that causes the dysfunctional bureaucracy to unleash its most potent resistor strategies. Whenever the total district system is threatened with powerful change efforts it fights back with even more powerful resistor strategies. For example, if threatened with serious change the school district protects itself by showing that the proposed changes would interfere with the implementation of federal and state laws. Or, that the proposed changes would be unconstitutional. Or, that the proposed changes would require a complete overhaul in the statewide funding system. Or, that the proposed changes would threaten the legal rights of those with handicapping conditions. Or. that the proposed changes would threaten local control, disenfranchise voters, remove constitutional protections to minorities, or raise taxes. The most cynical of all blocking strategies used by failing urban districts is the charge that the proposed changes have not been fully researched, as if current school practices reflect a scientific knowledge base and not an accumulation of unreflected-upon traditions. In those cases where change efforts are minimal threats to the total system, e.g. changing one or two schools, the system’s resistance is minimal and may even be disguised as supportive of the change. In this way, all major urban school districts simply marginalize the less threatening change efforts by supporting them as models thus protecting the district at large from their influence.
The elements of individually successful urban schools which have been identified by research and experience can only be built school by school if these schools are protected from their dysfunctional bureaucracies. The fact that the successes of individual schools in over 120 urban districts for more than fifty years have never been translated into creating a total district that is successful cannot be attributed to chance. Moving success from the school level to the district level has never happened because the district systematically ensures that it will not. Dysfunctional bureaucracy feeds on the human resources, the funds, the decision-making authority, the energy and the commitment which are the life blood needed for individual schools to succeed. Dysfunctional bureaucracy sucks up most of these resources for its own enhancement before allocating a significantly diminished portion down to the schools it supposedly serves. Federal, state and local funds are allocated to districts not to schools. Regardless of the funds’ intent, districts first skim off resources for their own growth and survival. In my city, if one were to divide the total budget by the number of students in the district in September, 2002 there was over $12,625 behind each child. (This is a substantial underestimate of the actual dollars behind each child since it does not include all the grant funds. Also, there are at least 5,000 “ghosts” who disappear after their legal attendance is taken for enrollment purposes in September. Added to this is the fact that the truancy rate is 65% in our high schools, 52% in our middles schools and 21% in our elementary schools.) The budgets that elementary school principals in my city actually receive from the central office to educate each child in their schools turn out to be $5,500 or 43% of the $12,625 per child that the system started out with. The defense offered by this failing system for skimming 57% of its budget before allocating funds to its schools is that “There are administrative costs required of the district and besides, it’s worse in other cities.” Actually, this 57% for administration reaches 70% when the costs of an individual school’s administration are also included. A conservative estimate nationally, is that in the major urban school districts the amount spent on the salaries for professional staff, equipment and materials used in the actual teaching of children is 30% or less of the total district budget. This 30% figure compares with 75% to 80% that small town and suburban districts without dysfunctional bureaucracies apply to the costs of instruction and school building services in direct support of teaching. The rhetoric that children’s learning is the highest priority of the urban districts might lead the uninitiated into believing that the system will actually behave as if its primary goal is improving students’ learning. However if one follows the money it is clear that the highest priority is always the protection and growth of the district system. This scenario pertains in spite of the fact that the funding base increases substantially. It has been clearly demonstrated for over half a century in every major urban school district that even as the total district’s resource base markedly increases there will never be sufficient resources which are allowed to pass through to the individual schools. The highest priority is always the insatiable demand of the system to enlarge and protect itself first and only secondarily to allocate resources down to the schools. What actually transpires is that the successful schools in these dysfunctional bureaucracies have effectively competed for resources against their district systems and in competition with the other schools in their district. It cannot be sufficiently stressed that the relatively small number of successful urban schools have accomplished what they have in spite of, not because of, their dysfunctional bureaucracies. In Darwinian terms successful urban schools represent a relatively small number which have mutated and adapted in ways which allow them to survive in the alien environment of the total school system. What has evolved to a new level are these individual schools not their alien environments. To believe that the alien environments can themselves be used to “help” other schools evolve at their expense is an extremely naïve assumption and explains the inevitable failure of would-be change agents and transformers.
In analyzing dysfunctional bureaucracy several characteristics are typically regarded as causes which are actually symptoms. This is a critical distinction since fixing these symptoms will not cause the system to operate any more successfully. Following are three of the more frequently cited symptoms.
Transient Superintendents. While the term of the average urban superintendent has become shorter (three years) there is no reason to believe that when the superintendents remained for substantial periods the quality of the schooling offered diverse children in poverty was any more effective. Indeed, it can be argued that the systems expanded for self-serving purposes to unworkable levels during the longer tenures of former superintendents. Further, the lack of planning for and sensitivity to the educational needs of diverse children in poverty by these long term leaders was a major contributor to the present dysfunctional bureaucracies. The collective experience of hiring new superintendents is that whether they are educators or non-educators, risen from the ranks or hired through national searches, whites or minorities, activists dedicated to change or functionaries committed to expanding what works in present schools, the results are always the same. The bureaucracy expands at the expense of the schools and the children regardless of who the superintendent is or what s/he promises to do. The difference between the best and the worst superintendent is only the speed and the degree to which the dysfunctional bureaucracy will expand during their tenures. Urban school superintendents don’t resign or get fired because they are presiding over failed systems miseducating children. They turnover because they have not helped the particular faction of the school board or central office staff in power at the time to gain greater resources and/or authority within the dysfunctional bureaucracy. Who the superintendent is has never, does not now, and never will effect student learning in these dysfunctional bureaucracies. The great importance attached to who this individual is can only be understood by answering the question of who benefits from the particular appointment.
Politicized school boards. There is no longer any question that urban school boards cannot function effectively except for their own benefit, i.e. awarding themselves salaries, health insurance, fringe benefits and perks; making decisions which favor the special interest groups they represent at the expense of the district as a whole; micromanaging; and presiding over the misuse of massive funding through ignorance or malfeasance. The typical budget hearing in an urban district will involve board members quietly passing items involving hundreds of millions of dollars because they don’t understand the item and are ashamed to raise questions about it, but then haggling far into the night over the purchase of chairs or the hiring of a coach because it is an item they do understand. It is also clear that school boards have clearly become more political in spite of receiving greater scrutiny from the media and the public than in the past. There is simply no basis for believing that urban school boards in former times, acting without open meeting laws, disclosure laws and affirmative action laws, were any less political. Indeed, it can be argued that lack of intelligent policy making in the past has institutionalized the present dysfunctional bureaucracies. The collective experience in the major urban districts has been that who is on the school board cannot transform or even stop the dysfunctional bureaucracy from growing. The quality of school board members can only affect the speed at which the system deteriorates. Who benefits from maintaining malfunctioning even chaotic urban school boards?
Lack of accountability. This is both a symptom and a cause of dysfunctionalism. Who is responsible to whom for exactly what? This question is never clearly and definitively answered in any urban district. When and where have school boards who have appointed superintendents, principals and other administrators been held accountable for the performance of their appointees? In which districts, some hiring more than one thousand teachers per year, have the specific hiring officials been held accountable for the performance of the particular individuals they have hired? In which district are those responsible for inclusion been held accountable for how well those with handicapping conditions are educated? Who is held accountable in school districts claiming to be short of funds when millions of dollars in unspent funds are routinely “discovered” a month before the fiscal year ends? Who is held accountable when the math or reading programs that have been adopted (at exorbitant costs) show dismal results, or are never even evaluated? Neither at present nor in the past has there been accountability, with consequences, built into any level of the urban district systems. Indeed, the argument that the system is organized to prevent anyone being held accountable for anything of any importance is a valid and quite powerful one. Who benefits from maintaining these systems in which those designated as responsible are not held accountable?
Causes of the Dysfunctional Bureaucracy
The administrators who comprise the central office bureaucracies of the schools are essentially people who have never worked in the real world. They are people who have always been students, teachers, supervisors and principals without any substantial real-world work experiences for any prolonged periods. The only work they have ever performed has been in the sheltered work places of public schools. They have never had the experience of having to produce or be terminated. They have never had bosses who could fire them immediately without a year of legal procedures and incredible documentation. They simply have not had the experience of having their productivity assessed on a daily and ongoing basis. Without any training or experience in setting clear objectives, having time deadlines to meet those objectives, working in teams and being constantly evaluated, they only know textbook definitions of concepts such as “accountability.” They frequently use terms such as “leadership” but have no idea of the behavioral competencies they would need to demonstrate in order to manifest leadership. From the superintendent down through all levels of the central office the question, “Can you give a few examples of how your work this week has led to greater learning in some specific schools?” will be answered with blank looks or palaver, never factual information. If it seems unfair to compare school district systems to those in the private sector then consider how central office staff of urban school districts compare to those who work in other public agencies. In my city 36% of the African American students graduate from high school…and this is a higher rate than in many other cities. Would other governmental agencies be allowed to survive and expand if they only collected 36% of the garbage, delivered only 36% of the mail, or issued 36% of the car licenses correctly?
The second cause of dysfunctional bureaucracy deals with how central office administrators and staff define what constitutes work. “Work” is operationally defined as going to meetings. The reason for this is that the culture of the central office clearly values means over ends. Procedures and processes rather than outcomes and effects are the focus of how people spend their time. In truth the procedures engaged in by central office functionaries are severely limited to little more than meetings. Time at “work” is spent attending meetings the outcomes of which are neither evaluated nor in any way connected to the stated objectives of the school district. “Work” involves getting ready for meetings, deciding who will and who will not attend the meetings, setting meeting agendas, holding the meetings, deciding on the next meeting dates, circulating minutes of the meetings and then initiating the cycle again. The typical school superintendent spends part of every day just thanking people for attending meetings and assuring the participants they have his fullest support and gratitude. The highest level functionaries have overlapping, even conflicting meetings because there is never enough time in any one day to attend all the meetings which previous meetings have generated. The top functionaries need to have several assistants covering meetings for them and can only stop by or drop in on these meetings. The top administrators also use teleconferencing to participate in more meetings for shorter periods. They also attend numerous meetings in other cities. Middle level administrators who have to attend many of these meetings for their superiors as well as cover their own meetings, soon find they have no time during the regular business day to get anything else done. But if this “anything else” is analyzed most of it involves catching up with email and phone messages…most of which are related to the meetings. The lowest level administrators experience the most pressure since there is a pecking order in being sent to cover meetings. Lower level functionaries have to not only attend their own meetings but cover the largest number of meetings for the greatest number of superiors who have ordered them to attend. While meetings do not accomplish anything for the schools or children’ s learning they do validate the participants’ power and status. The first thing that happens at a meeting is that the invitees assess who else is present. The goal is to be able to attend meetings with more important and never less important individuals. If trapped in a meeting with less important functionaries the first goal is to leave early and substitute a deputy or an assistant to attend future meetings. Engaging in meetings with individuals of lower status lowers the functionary’s status and is a serious erosion of perceived power within the bureaucracy.
Regardless of the stated content of the meeting the real agenda is for each functionary first, to protect the power and resources of his/her department, and second, to garner some of the resources, or authority over resources, from another functionary’s department. The typical ways in which these goals are achieved include but are not limited to the following strategies: participants learn as much as possible about how other divisions are functioning but reveal as little as possible about their own departments; participants also learn as much as possible about problems that other departments are having. If another department can be made to look as if it is creating problems or a potential lawsuit for the system there might be a realignment of authority and resources and one’s own department may be able to take on additional functions, thereby gaining more resources and personnel. Since there is no accountability it is always to the functionaries’ advantage to grow. Salary, power and status result from being responsible for more people and resources, never from accomplishments. Growth for its own sake is the highest goal of the functionaries and regardless of the agenda this is what they are competing for, directly or indirectly, at the meetings.
In the dysfunctional bureaucracy meetings are rarely one-time events. To attend a one-time meeting to solve a problem and then disband is an experience that most school district functionaries never have in careers that may exceed thirty years. Central office culture inevitably evolves meetings into committees that will continue over time. They also will adopt additional members but not recognize resignations. Over the years I have resigned from several central office committees but have never stopped receiving minutes and agendas. Because the bureaucracy values process not output, meetings take on lives of their own and continue on long after the participants have lost sight of their initial purposes. The central office culture is such powerful insulation from reality that most of the functionaries actually convince themselves that they are “working”. The number and length of the meetings have become the units by which “work” is measured. I recently observed two functionaries vying over who was busier and “working” harder than the other. The way they settled their claims was to compare their appointment books and count up who was attending more meetings.
Thus far I have argued that central office personnel have had no experience at being productive, accountable or engaged in real work. Since there are no successful urban school districts, there is no advantage to hiring educators from other districts suffering from the same syndromes since these functionaries have worked their way up through their own failed systems. Without any models or experience in successful urban school districts to guide them, collecting functionaries from other failing systems can only reproduce failure. Free of any vision of what success looks like, those from other districts readily mesh with those promoted from within to recreate reward systems that perpetuate and reinforce the non-productive, anti-work, unaccountable behaviors which characterize the dysfunctional bureaucracy.
No Sense of Urgency
The central offices are active places filled with people performing roles that have been detailed in careful job descriptions and specified further by superiors assigning particular tasks to subordinates. There is inevitably a cabinet of the highest level functionaries who report directly to the superintendent. There are organizational charts of directors, deputies and department heads, all with their various deputies and assistants. As in all offices, there are also numerous support staffs, secretaries and clerical staff. Districts also have legal staffs or counsel on retainer. While regular business hours are kept year round and a few schools may be open year round, summers are less rushed because central office people have worked their way up from the schools and are accustomed to taking their vacations during summers. Inevitably a rhythm of work takes over the central office as everyone settles down to doing the tasks they have negotiated for themselves with their superiors.
When the superintendent resigns or is terminated fear and insecurity descends on the central office especially among those who are the superintendent’s appointees. Concern about retaining their jobs also affects those middle level administrators who were the appointees of the top level appointees. But the overall apprehension now gripping the central office is pervasive and affects everyone not just those whose positions are at stake. The reason for this is that the functionaries within the hierarchy are performing duties and assignments which their current superiors have approved. These are tasks which cannot be validated in any way as helping children in schools learn more; they are duties the central office people have created for themselves which they find amenable to perform. Regardless of what it may say in anyone’s job description, central office people manage to transform their duties into what they would like to be doing. Miraculously, the most vital things that need to be done match the preferences of the central office functionaries. If the only implement in an individual’s tool bag is a hammer it is amazing how many things get fixed by banging. A new school board or superintendent therefore threatens the specific “work” assignments of everyone in the central office. Some functionaries may even be asked to do things they don’t feel like doing. The veteran central office people are much less frightened because experience has taught them that through negotiations, maneuvering (and going to the meetings) they will end up doing pretty much what they have always felt like doing.
The first statement that the new superintendent of a failing urban school district makes upon acceding to office makes clear his/her commitment to children’s learning as the highest priority of the district. To implement this vision s/he announces his/her determination to make central office an effective servant of the schools in the district. These statements are precisely what every preceding superintendent has said upon taking office. Everyone listens carefully and pretends these clichés are being offered and heard for the first time. Nothing substantiates the charge that the urban districts and their management is a charade reenacted every two or three years at the expense of the children more than these initial banal pronouncements of the new superintendent. Again, one must raise the question of why all the constituencies pretend that these statements mean something. The inevitable answer lies in understanding the power of the constituencies who benefit from maintaining these failing school districts and from installing new superintendents destined to fail in the same old ways in such short order.
Once the new superintendent’s commitment to learning has been duly spoken and heard the first task every new superintendent performs is to reorganize the central office. This ritual is repeated with absolute reliability in city after city across the country. The district needs to be reorganized! This adds to the trepidation of many in the central office, particularly among those who have not been around long enough to know that nothing ever really changes. The greatest fear of the central office people is that the reorganization may result in their being placed back into the schools working directly with children and youth. Nothing is more frightening to central office people than this specter of having to move back into real schools once they have escaped and been promoted to the central office. Because this is their worst nightmare, central office functionaries will do anything to preserve the bureaucracy and their own sinecures. If actually confronted with a real directive requiring they go back to the schools they take early retirement. The few exceptions are those within a year or two of retirement who return to the schools in some administrative capacity and in effect take early retirement on the job. It is an iron law of the dysfunctional bureaucracy that central office people never return to the classroom.
The new reorganization involves the new superintendent taking several actions which are also replicated in district after district. The first is to set up a small task force to find out precisely what everyone in the central office now does and to prepare a report. This report will not only be ignored but lost so that the next superintendent two years from now will have to do another survey of just what everyone in the central office does when s/he accedes to office. The second action is to demonstrate efficiency by merging existing departments into fewer but bigger ones. The third action is to appoint the new heads of these departments or divisions. The fourth action is the appointment of these new administrators to the new superintendent’s cabinet or council. It is now clear that some new titles and functions must be changed on the district organizational chart. All these activities trigger a set of meetings that keep the top and middle levels of the bureaucracy engaged for a minimum of three months but in many cases longer. During this period the functionaries throughout the hierarchy begin a feeling out process with their superiors to determine which of their existing duties they can maintain. Gradually and inexorably the system begins to settle down and slow the actions of the new superintendent down to the rhythm of the organization. The central office people will show they are team players by responding to every suggestion of the new administration with enthusiasm. As experienced central office functionaries they will also see to it that every initiative will require a new administrator with a higher salary and title, a bigger office and more clerical help. By the end of his/her first year the new superintendent is presiding over a bureaucracy that is not only as big as the one s/he inherited but one that is growing substantially larger because of the need for many new positions to perform all the new functions that the new administration has announced it will take on. With the exception of a very few people at the top, the new district organization will end up with essentially the same people performing the same functions they have always performed…but at substantially higher salaries with many more deputies and assistants in renamed departments and divisions. As a result of the flurry of all these new activities and people, there will be less not more resources for the schools, and lower not higher achievement for the children resulting from any of these new central office activities. Worst of all, these new activities will lead to a greater percentage of the district budget being used for the care and feeding of the central office and an even smaller percentage of the budget finding its way out to the schools. The major impact of all of this on the schools will be that they will be burdened with preparing even more reports and coping with more intrusive, restrictive policies than ever. (e.g. “No more field trips in your school until achievement scores go up.”)
Many critics, including myself in former times, have accused the dysfunctional bureaucracy of being mindless because of its lack of usefulness and its negative impact on the schools and children. After carefully observing, analyzing and working with central office people in cities across the nation for half a century it is now quite clear to me that mindless is the least appropriate term. The responses of the central office people can more accurately be described as measured, careful, calculated, purposeful and highly effective at preserving their positions but never mindless. Unfortunately, the great persistence, skill and know-how which they demonstrate is always in the pursuit and maintenance of their own benefits and never in any way an improvement in the education offered diverse children in poverty. I would describe the phenomenon of the central office people’s effectiveness at protecting and enhancing themselves as the ultimate example of how people’s intelligence skyrockets to unimaginable heights whenever their self interest is involved. Individuals of extremely modest ability who are challenged by the task of following the agenda at a committee meeting (“Are we on item 5 or 6?”), will demonstrate political acumen that would rival Machiavelli when faced with protecting their sinecures.
So now we have a new superintendent firmly ensconced and leading the district to a “new” vision: “We are going to raise the achievement level of the children in the district.” But what happens when the dust has settled in the central office? After the first few months the rhythm of life returns. People come to “work”, go to meetings, answer their messages and prepare reports for their superiors. Many (mostly newer people) even stay late and come in early to complete these vital tasks. A visitor to the central office might well see it as not much different from visiting the offices in city hall or county government. One would never guess from observing these people at “work” that the education of diverse children in poverty in the district is a failure denying massive numbers of children their life opportunities.
There is simply no sense of urgency either within the central offices or emanating from the functionaries “working” in them. If one considers what is happening to the children in these districts, it would be more appropriate for the central offices to have an atmosphere like that found in the control tower of a busy airport, or in the emergency rooms of a city hospital. There we see skilled professionals who understand that they are engaged in matters of life and death, functioning with a great sense of urgency and feeling accountable for the outcome of their services. There is nothing like this in any of the 120 urban school district central offices because the functionaries make the opposite three assumptions. “What I personally do everyday certainly does not cause anyone’s death. I am not personally responsible or accountable for how much specific children in a particular school are learning…the principal, the teachers and the parents are. I believe it is more important to behave in a polite, civil, professional manner than to run around clamoring about urgency.” The typical central office in any of these school districts would pass for just another large organization pleasantly going about its business. People are not working under any deadlines which must absolutely be met…or under any pressure at all! What can be felt and sensed in these central office environments is congruent with what can be observed. People greet each other, chat about the weather and families, exchange pleasantries, go through meeting agendas, get ready for the next day and leave at the end of the day. There is a patina of civility and cordiality that covers all the interactions. Should anyone becomes emotional or upset, s/he would be treated with the same condescending kindness as an angry child in school might be treated by a teacher. It is clear that central office people regard themselves as “professionals.”
Unfortunately, their operational definition of professionalism has nothing to do with demonstrating competencies, working under horrendous time pressures, making certain that real work is accomplished, or being evaluated and held accountable for the learning of children and youth. While the lives of the functionaries are not at stake those of the children are. Central office professionalism means something quite different from the ordinary usage of the term. It means never disagreeing with a superior, never asking anyone a difficult question or even too many easy ones, and above all, demonstrating an air of pleasant equanimity. They are like the librarian who could not bring herself to shout “fire” when the building was burning down. After a lifetime of shushing everyone there is simply no way for her to break her conditioning and deal with reality. Central office functionaries are people who have convinced themselves they are successful, not because they are accomplishing anything but because they have made it up into the central office. They feel they have paid their dues working in the schools and have now arrived at the top of their “profession.” The reason there is no sense of urgency demonstrated by the school boards, the superintendents and the thousands of central office functionaries is not mysterious. In my city the benefits of making $60,000 to $150,000 annually (2002 dollars) plus 51% fringe benefits assuages the occasional note of reality from outside the system. “Hey, only 10% of our kids are proficient in math! Hey, only 13% are proficient in science! Hey only 56% of our kids are proficient in reading! Hey, only 17% of the graduates go to college.” These are all regarded by central office people as trivial carps and the unfair criticism by outsiders who “don’t understand all the handicaps we work under, who don’t appreciate how hard we work, and who are unwilling to fund our schools at the level we need.”
The reason that several hundred thousand of these central office functionaries in 120 districts can get away with, indeed be rewarded for, the unforgivable mass educational killing of children is that these are children of color and children in poverty. If the suburban and small town schools of Wisconsin had a graduation rate of 36% (the current graduation rate for African Americans in my city) there would not be an air of calm “professionalism” in the central offices, or at the school board, or in the streets outside the schools. The parents (and their lawyers) would be engaged in activities that would be closing down the system. The Governor would be calling out the National Guard to protect school property and convening a special session of the state legislature. The President as well as the Secretary of Education would be making personal visits and commitments promising immediate change. The universities, business associations, and community organizations would be holding forums and meetings. Churches would be holding all night vigils. The local foundations would be funding special studies and action task forces. The media would keep the story on page one until the system was changed. If the victims of such horrendous miseducation were white children in small towns and suburbs rather than urban minority children and children in poverty the dysfunctional bureaucracy would not survive one year let alone be allowed to grow even worse every year for over half a century..
Part II. The Direct and Indirect Beneficiaries of Failed
Urban School Districts
Beneficiaries of Failing Urban School Districts
1. Employees of central offices. In some cities there is a 2:1 ratio of “other” employees to teachers. In my city there are 6,400 teachers. The district admits to 12,500 employees. A computer specialist I queried reported that each month the system writes checks to over 17,300 individuals. The truth is that to answer the question, “How many people work in this district?” the superintendent would have to call a meeting. The participants would sit around the table and rather than provide data would raise questions: Do you mean certificated and/or non-certificated personnel? Do you mean part time and temporary help? Do you mean substitute teachers? Do you mean employees whose salaries we pay but who have been assigned to other institutions and agencies? Do you mean people on leave? Do you want to include the employees of regularly contracted vendors (e.g. bus drivers) or only those such as food service workers who we pay? What about after school and summer employees? The number of district employees that any superintendent or school board comes up with should be suspect since they simply do not know how many people work in the district. The correct answer is over 50% too many.
2. Students outside of the urban school districts competing for college admission. The students in urban districts provide a built in bottom half for every norm referenced standardized test. Because urban students do so poorly other children can make lower scores and appear to know more, be above grade level, or appear to have greater ability. This advantage is especially valuable when taking ACT’s and SAT’s.
3. Students outside of the urban school districts preparing for the world of work. Non-urban students are better prepared to compete for and secure entry level career positions. In my city I know of no employers, aside from those with dead-end minimum wage positions, who hire our new high school graduates. Employers claim that even “successful” graduates of the city schools lack basic skills and basic work habits.
4. Parents outside of urban school districts. Being able to maintain small school districts empowers parents with voice, input and control over their children’s educations. They can actually speak personally to school board members, the superintendent, school principals and influence what happens to their children in school. Urban parents have no way to deal with large dysfunctional bureaucracies.
With rare exception they are utterly powerless to affect any aspect of their children’s schooling. In my city I have never found a parent, including college graduates, who can follow the elaborate procedures for enrolling their children in a particular school.
5. Lawyers suing urban districts; lawyers defending districts. The number of lawsuits is a function of the potential that lawyers believe can be tapped for damages. Urban districts are the ones with deep pockets and lawyers can readily prove they do not provide equal or even all mandated services. Except for frivolous cases individual suits or class actions against the school district in my city typically win in court and/or are awarded a settlement.
6. Vendors of supplies and equipment. Nationally, this total can only be estimated in the billions. The amount spent on public education makes it the largest industry in America. Urban school districts are a substantial part of this industry. A successful sale of a book, program or piece of equipment to an urban district is likely to be more profitable than a sale to many states.
7. Contractors and builders. This includes not only buildings, grounds, plumbing and the usual contractors but the wiring for computers and the remodeling done for purposes of access and security. Maintaining numerous and increasing numbers of aging structures adds to costs. The New York City schools still heat over 100 buildings with coal supporting suppliers and a very active coal stokers union.
8. Consultants. Endless. In my city one consultant recently sold the school board a $750,000 program that was terminated the following year upon change of the school board majority. The number of consultants and their programs that are purchased by urban districts is technically public information but extremely difficult data to pry loose.
9. Food service vendors and employees. In my system of over 103,000 students there are over 80,000 meals served daily.
10. Transportation vendors and employees. After the two largest cities in the state, the schools in my city operate the third largest bus system in the state
11. Higher education institutions. By law, all professional personnel are required to not only complete certification programs but to take courses for renewals of licenses and for salary increases. The lack of accountability by Schools of Education is a national phenomena. Central office functionaries, principals, school psychologists, guidance counselors, librarians all have degrees and certifications from universities. In my state the 32 public and private institutions who benefit from this continuous flow of students are in no way held accountable for the quality of any of their graduates’ performances. Indeed, 60% of the certified teacher graduates never even take teaching jobs. Who benefits from such continuous built-in irrelevance?
12. Organizations which contract with districts to operate charter schools. In my city the district charters special schools serving disruptors and other specific populations. The number of schools which benefit by being chartered by the district is now nineteen.
13. Federal, state and local elected officials. Candidates running for office at all levels use educational reform issues related to urban schools for political purposes. It is no longer possible to be elected without an educational platform and these inevitably focus on problems that are worst in the urban districts. Unfortunately these plans inevitably enhance the bureaucracy not the children and make things even worse when enacted.
14. School board members. In many cities as well as in my own, school board members receive salaries, full health benefits and numerous other perks. Many boards also have their own research staffs since they don’t trust the reports of their own central office people and superintendents.
15. Superintendents. Inflated salaries and perks are common. It is typical for urban boards to buy out contracts of failed superintendents who then take jobs in other districts and collect salary checks from their former as well as from their current employers.
16. Media. If Milwaukee were 21 districts of 5,000 students or fewer the media would not be able to cover education with just one reporter. The news would also be much less compelling since the numerous failures of the district are now a source of interest because of the magnitude of the failures and problems. If the number of truants, or expulsions or dropouts were divided by twenty one the media would have education news that involved much smaller numbers and would be less newsworthy.
17. Professional organizations. The Great Cities Council, its Director and staff are just one organization with a budget in the millions. There are countless other professional organizations whose existence depends on its urban school district constituency.
18. The “helping” professions and those who train them. There are several professions involving health and human service workers who “serve” the poor in our cities and schools. Small town and suburban school districts do not employ or contract with social workers, nurses and other health professionals, community agencies, child care professionals and others to the same extent as the major urban districts if at all. All these constituencies have careers because the urban bureaucracies exist. The community colleges and universities which train and certify this wide variety of individuals are also beneficiaries.
19. The test manufacturers have a billion dollar industry which continues to grow. This industry supports a range of professionals with advanced university training.
20. Employees of the U.S. Office of Education. Administering the 49 billion dollar budget requires a small army of employees. Most of these funds are awarded to solve problems related to students in poverty, students with some handicapping condition, minority students, students in failing schools, or doing research and demonstration programs related to such students. Grants also focus on preparing teachers and other school personnel for these student populations. The poor and minorities in poverty legitimize not only the funds but the massive number of employees who give it out and track it.
21. Universities and other agencies receiving grant funds. In the first and second order public and private universities whole buildings, new schools, departments, institutes, centers, and programs have been built with the overhead from massive federal funding. The overwhelming majority of this funding derives from efforts to study or improve the problems of educating diverse children in poverty, much of it in the 120 largest districts.
Victims of the Failed Urban Districts
Diverse children and youth in poverty who are being miseducated
Taxpayers whose funds are being misappropriated
Society at large absorbing the lifelong costs of caring for the miseduated
Why Do the Victims Support These School Districts?
Following are some of the reasons the victims continue to support systems that are clearly dysfunctional bureaucracies.
Strange as it may seem, most urban parents and caregivers still trust the system. They see many school people who are people of color, who may have grown up in their neighborhood or even attended the very same schools that their children now attend. Latinos may find a community person in the school who speaks Spanish and “helps” them. African Americans see people of color in important positions.
Many parents and caregivers work in the school district or have family members who work in the district. They have a direct financial stake in the well being of the district. In my city and in many others the school district is the employer of more minorities than any business or governmental agency in the city. These parents and caregivers are cynically exploited by systems that know if they hire minorities these employees will help protect the entire system from significant change. Districts in effect trade off jobs to people in poverty or to college graduates of color who experience discrimination in the private sector as a strategy for making parents and community think twice about attacking the district.
Many parents and caregivers were themselves victims of miseducation. With no model of what a successful education would look like they have an insufficient basis for understanding how the system is damaging their children.
Low income people of color cannot find affordable housing in suburbs or the transportation and jobs needed to live in small towns. Their only choice is to keep trying to improve urban districts no matter how impossible they find the task. The parents and caregivers who have grievances have no chance against the bureaucracy, even if they organize. They cannot win any battles against these large school district organizations any more than they can improve their garbage collection, health care, or the services of any other branch of local government. In my city the school district maintains one high school with an 18% graduation rate and claims it is the parents who will not let the school be closed.
The parents and caregivers are low income people whose major time and energy must be devoted to earning a living. It is typical for individuals to work long hours or hold several part time jobs. They simply don’t have the time or energy to monitor the district’s policies and procedures.
In some cases parents and caregivers are bribed with government grants. Several categories of special education make parents eligible for monthly checks once they agree to have their children labeled.
Parents and caregivers are manipulated, directly lied to, or controlled. The pretense is that they are being given voice when in reality their ideas are not heard and their stated choices are simply not delivered. In my city in 2002 there were 64 schools defined as failing according to the Leave No Child Behind legislation. The law required that 45,000 parents and caregivers be informed by letter that they were entitled by federal law to select new schools and move their children out of the failing schools to new ones. When the delays and procedures engaged in by the local district system were completed, only 163 of the 45,000 parents were able to transfer their children to other schools. Whether these were actually transfers to “successful” schools has not been documented.
Many parents and caregivers may have accurate insights regarding how the system is failing their children but approach it as they would the lottery. There are enough one-in-a-thousand examples of a youngster who does get to college and becomes a lawyer or a banker; or an athlete who gets a scholarship; or a teenager who is adopted by a local business and is trained for a career. These rare exceptions are enough to keep hope alive no matter how great the odds are against most children.
Many parents and caregivers are simply used by the school. They are involved as classroom helpers, school volunteers, parent assistants on field trips and in other unpaid capacities. This leads many of them to feel involved and useful. It also provides them with some first-hand experience seeing many teachers who do care and who do work very hard.
Finally and most pernicious are the influences exerted on parents and caregivers by community leaders, religious leaders, educational leaders, the media and the general society to regard the miseducation of the district as their fault and the fault of their children. In effect, the school district blames the victims by convincing them that the school district is doing the best it can to educate children lacking in the appropriate life experiences, raised by inadequate parents in chaotic communities. While this would be an amazing and unbelievable explanation if a school district tried to offer it to non-urban populations, it is not only offered but accepted by many diverse, low income parents and caregivers who frequently feel inadequate and helpless in protecting their children from negative influences. While it is easy to understand the motivation of the urban districts to blame their failures on the victims of their miseducation it is more difficult to comprehend why so many of the victims agree with and support the district’s explanation of failure. It is only when we understand that parents and caregivers are under a constant barrage from every source of information telling them that if there were less violence, drugs, unstable families, gangs and community instability then their children would do better in school. The dysfunctional bureaucracy is extremely effective at evading accountability and convincing parents that miseducation is their own fault.
Distributing Scarce Resources
In our society, families in the top 25% in income send 86% of their children to college while families in the bottom 20% send 4% of their children to college. But there are other gaps that must be addressed which also contribute to the achievement gap: language development, early childhood experience, health care, parent education, school size, and class size. While the majority of the 14 million children in poverty are white, there are disproportionately high numbers of African American and Latino children represented. The diverse children in urban poverty represent about half of these 14 million.
The recognition that selected constituencies derive more benefits than others is not new or strange in American society. Our basic assumption is that in a free society some will inevitably fare better than others. We live with the unequal distribution of goods and services every day of our lives. Inevitably the goods that are most desired and the services that are most vital are a scarce resource. There is never enough of what is most wanted or needed to go around. We solve this problem of “Who gets what?” by raising costs. If, for example, the scarce resource to be distributed is a limited number of downtown parking spaces then the parking fees on lots and in garages increase until only those who can pay for the limited spaces are able to park. We satisfy our sense of fairness by providing the public equal access to a limited number of metered spaces on a first come first serve basis but these spaces are less conveniently located, metered by the hour and ticketed for overtime lapses. We have mollified both the god of individual initiative by providing those with the means to have access to highly desirable limited parking and the god of equity and access by providing the public with the opportunity to compete for public parking. We have learned to accept this dual process as the best way to distribute a scarce resource. Our commonly held value is that those who are paying a great deal should be able to park.
As we mature we become cognizant of more than how material goods are distributed. The distribution of many services affecting our day-to-day existence and futures are recognized as vital. Access to health care, legal services, insurance coverage, police and fire protection, transportation, housing and educational services come to the foreground of our consciousness. Various levels of government take responsibility for providing these services and everyone is deemed to be entitled to these basic services. Frequently, we go even further and espouse the goal that everyone is entitled to “high quality” services in these and other vital areas. As politicians spend their careers reiterating such lofty promises it becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile reality and rhetoric. Our stated values of equity and access for all don’t match the actual availability and distribution of services declared to be entitlements for all at a level of “high quality”. For example, in health care high quality refers to having the most qualified doctors in the best hospitals utilizing the latest treatments on a personal and thorough basis. This definition of high quality makes it clear that health care is a scarce resource since there is a limited number of the best doctors, treatments and services available. As in the more simple parking example, the problem of how to distribute top quality health care is solved by enabling those who can pay the highest, escalating costs to secure the service. Those who can pay less receive basic but something less than the highest quality care. The 43 million without health insurance have equal access to compete for the health services provided by emergency rooms and other public services. As a matter of life and death, health care is infinitely more important than parking so there is more political activity and public discourse about its availability. But when the talk about everyone being entitled to high quality or even basic health care has subsided, the actual distribution of scarce health care services is determined on the basis of who can pay for them. In spite of the fact that some health care professionals contribute pro bono services, the government provides subsidies and the private sector makes substantial contributions, the correlation between ability to pay and access to high quality service is high and not due to chance: the more one can pay the greater the likelihood that one’s health care will increase in quality. Many typically pay more than half of their total assets in their last year of life just to secure even basic health services.
The fact that there is always a finite amount of the highest quality of any service is what makes it a scarce resource. Access to scarce high quality resources is controlled by three factors: 1) awareness that the service or opportunity exists, 2) knowledge of the method (set of steps, procedures, hurdles) for securing the service and 3) sufficient resources for buying the service. Nowhere is this three step process for distributing high quality service more assiduously followed than in deciding who has access to high quality education. In the case of public education what is purchased is the location of the family’s housing.
Education as a Personal Good
The achievement gap is not an aberration of American society nor is it an unintended consequence. Quite the contrary. It reflects the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that education is a personal not a common good and that the highest quality education is a scarce resource. Schooling is the means we use to produce winners and losers. Who gets into the prestigious colleges is the critical question at the top achievers’ level. Who goes to the other colleges or to post secondary institutions reflects the competition at the next levels down. Who gets training for a decent job or any job at all is the next level and so on. When we get to the poor and diverse children in urban schools the lofty mission of advanced knowledge, citizenship and self-actualization we want for our children has been narrowed down to “get a job and stay out of jail.” At this lowest level there is no longer any competition for a future of any substantial value. This level is miseducation and the future “opportunities” it leads to are far from a scarce resource.
School systems state goals as universals but their actual work is sorting students not equalizing their opportunities to learn. Failing public schools in urban districts function in ways that ensure that diverse children in poverty will be kept in the bottom half on standardized tests of school achievement. They function as custodial institutions rather than as places where learning is the primary activity. The “pedagogy” offered in these “schools” is a set of cultural rituals that bears no resemblance whatever to the knowledge base in teaching and learning. As in other exploitative situations, most of the parents of the 14 million diverse children in poverty in the 120 largest school districts and in poor rural areas honestly believe that their schools are treating their children fairly. In my own city parents and community tolerate a high school which had an 18 percent graduate last year in a district that has an overall 36 percent high school graduation rate for African Americans -and this is a higher rate than in several other urban districts.
Maintaining and supporting failure in our urban school districts over decades cannot be attributed to chance. Typically, scholars writing in the field of school change assume that the school functionaries maintaining these urban districts miseducating the bottom half are well intentioned; they just don’t have sufficient knowledge and understanding. Even the most scholarly analysts of why school reform has failed stop short of attributing motive and assume that school functionaries are benign and caring individuals who just need to know more and that once they do they will then act more wisely. But objective analysts observing the realities of life in urban schools must conclude otherwise. The long-term institutionalization of failure for diverse children in poverty can only be the result of systematic design and purposeful, committed resistance to change. For over half a century failed urban school districts and teacher education efforts directed at improving urban teaching, have spent billions of dollars from federal and private sources specifically directed at equalizing the quality of the schooling offered diverse children in urban poverty. While soliciting and accepting the funds, urban school districts have systematically pursued policies and practices which have effectively withstood serious change efforts. I have reports and analysis of major urban school districts dating from the 1960’s which describe the very same problems and advocate the very same solutions as analyses made of these districts after 2000. The fact is that the change efforts have not been as effective as the urban districts’ blocking strategies and that as urban schools continue to worsen the achievement gap has become solidified, predictable and worst of all…generally accepted as if a law of nature.
Part III. No One to Blame: Institutionalizing the Miseducation of Diverse Children in Urban Poverty
Whenever any serious, objective, data-based analysis of the urban schools is presented there is common agreement that the systems are indeed failing. School people cannot mount a credible defense against the mountain of evidence revealing students’ low achievement, the achievement gap with advantaged students, the dropout/pushout rate, the attendance/truancy rate, the suspension/expulsion rate, teacher turnover, the graduation rate, or the low number of “successful” graduates who never move into the world of work or higher education. Given the stated purposes of public education, these systems are readily shown to be massive failures on the basis of any criteria using any data sets. How then can these failed systems resist the onslaught of data supporting their failure and do so effectively in so many different cities over such an extended period? The answer does not lie in understanding why the victims support these failing systems since the victims have little or no power over these organizations and their supporting institutions. The answer lies in the power of the beneficiaries who derive unearned privileges from maintaining the present systems. A secondary explanation is in the naïve behaviors of the would-be change agents and transformers who do research, publish reports and then present their findings to the very beneficiaries of the failed systems-as if the school boards and the functionaries administrating these failing school district systems are open minded, consumers eagerly waiting to be informed of still another problem they should be solving. In truth, the problems and criticisms which may be new to the critics and the researchers are already much better known to the school people who not only understand these problems from personal experience but are in possession of substantially more data than they have allowed the critics to see regarding the extent of their failures.
The strategy used by school people to counter any serious criticism is to begin by admitting to the validity of the data but then deflecting critics’ calls for stopping their malpractice into discussions of precisely how the critics would solve these problems in the context of the existing school district’s system. The assumption they lead critics into making is that the only option for those who claim to support public education is to support the existing school district systems. The content of any criticisms showing that specific system practices are seriously damaging the children is quickly lost. The focus is shifted from the criticisms to the critic’s advocacy for changing the district bureaucracy given the complexities of the system’s administrative structures, the multiple funding mechanisms, the state and federal mandates, the system’s contractual obligations, and the body of state laws giving the district the responsibility for these functions. Using this ploy school people shift the onus for solving the problems raised in any research report from themselves to the critics. Whatever critics now propose as remedies must meet two conditions: they must be solutions that will work given the continued existence of the present school district; and they must be practical and feasible. And since the school district employees and their representatives know these systems best they make themselves the arbiters of whether the critics’ solutions are realistic and will work. School people’s “logic” now dominates the interchange. If the critic doesn’t have solutions that the school people approve of his/her diagnosis of the problem is “proven” incorrect. In these forums, dialogues and debates, the very constituencies that cause and benefit from the school district’s failures are able to preserve and protect their systems from change by shifting the focus from their miseducation of children to analyses of the inadequacies in critics’ plans for redesigning their dysfunctional bureaucracies.
Inevitably, critics fall into the trap and begin presenting ideas for how to solve the problems they have raised within the current school systems forgetting or not understanding that it is the present systems that have caused the problems. The constituencies representing the dysfunctional bureaucracy, with the help of other beneficiaries of the failing school district, now become the questioners and judges of the critic’s solutions for changing the system. One by one the critics’ suggestions are shown by the beneficiaries of dysfunctional bureaucracy to be unworkable within the legal, financial and contractual restraints of the present system. What may have begun with some critic presenting some valid data regarding a system practice or policy that should be immediately stopped concludes with the critics on the defensive suggesting solutions that the school people show are infeasible. If the critics are local business leaders the school people even get them to agree that “since we all support public education in this city we should be working together.” If the critics are educational experts the school people invite them to serve on school system committees to explore solutions to the problems they have raised, or they hire them outright as consultants. These interactions conclude with the critics being co-opted into contributing human and financial resources to some initiative which the school people then use to enhance the dysfunctional bureaucracy rather than solve the particular problem of miseducation that started the interaction in the first place. The critics lose in two ways: their valid criticisms will never lead to any action that will stop the miseducation of the children and they have been finessed into becoming active collaborators of a pernicious system.
The “logic” under girding this twisted process is interesting. Imagine a doctor sharing data with a patient which indicates that the patient is dying of cancer. Since the doctor has neither a cure that he can guarantee nor even any treatment that the patient finds amenable, the patient has “proven” that the doctor’s diagnosis cannot possibly be valid. One reason this bizarre non-sequitur is repeated endlessly in every city is that the critics are amateur change agents and transformers pursuing real jobs and demanding careers. They can only function as part-time, temporary change agents. School people and the other beneficiaries of district failure however all work full time at protecting their systems, their sinecures and their benefits.
In all of these cities the local media handle criticism of their local dysfunctional school bureaucracy in precisely the same way using the same “logic.” For example, a critic may come to my city and make a presentation which shows that in our local school system the number of children being labeled with some handicapping condition is 18% compared to 12% nationally and that it is not reasonable to believe that a city has a special education population of 18%. Would the suburban population around the city support the labeling of more than one out of every six of their children as abnormal in some way as a reasonable educational activity? He indicates further that nationally there are 3.8 million boys but “only” 1.9 million girls being given some special education label. There is also a significantly greater number of African American males in this population. In some cities e.g. Boston, the number of African American males placed in special education categories has reached 28%. Would the people in the suburbs around Boston regard a system that labels more than one out of every four of their children as abnormal in some way as reasonable? The expert points out that there are factors which must by operating in my city school district that are systematically inflating the rate of labeling. He also notes that 98% of the school psychologists who test the children are white and that a majority of the children they test are referred by white primary level teachers who find it difficult to manage these children in their classrooms. He cites the fact that in this district almost all of the children labeled will stay labeled throughout their school careers regardless of how much they improve their subsequent grades or achievement. This inappropriate labeling is denying thousands of children in this district the education they deserve and is highly likely to be damaging them for life. He concludes by urging the school system to take responsibility for immediately coming up with a plan for stopping this massive miseducation.
The media eagerly report these data because it is in the nature of news that the more negative it is the more likely the reporter can get his story and byline on page one. But media people are also beneficiaries of the failed school system. Once they have secured their negative headlines they quickly lapse into the very same follow-up questions and “logic” used by school people as blocking strategies. They shift the onus and accountability from system functionaries who should immediately stop the inaccurate labeling and quickly come up with a valid procedure that doesn’t harm children, to the critic’s solutions for changing the school district system. The media ask the critic questions such as the following: “Are you saying the district is violating federal and state laws in identifying the handicapped? Are you saying that all these children should be retested by people who are not district employees? Which tests should be used? Who should pay for this massive retesting of 18,000 students? In your plan who will bear the liability for making restitution to the children and their families for the damages related to having been incorrectly labeled?” The critic may have begun with a valid point: i.e. the procedures for evaluating children in this district are producing biased results in determining who is normal and there is a likelihood, greater than can be attributed to chance, that this district is seriously mislabeling and therefore miseducating large numbers of children, particularly African American males. The media have neutralized the critic by using school people’s “logic”. If the critic has no total and complete solution for altering the mislabeling practices (assuming the present district system must be continued and assuming that the functionaries within the present system must find his solutions amenable), then his criticism has been “proven” to be invalid. In this way, when critics who are focused on improving the schooling offered diverse children in poverty come up against school people and others who benefit from protecting existing school systems, they are inevitably made to look unprepared and unrealistic. The poor critic with expertise in the testing of cognitive disabilities is no match for school people who can readily show that he doesn’t know how to reorganize the district and he has no idea of all the interlocking bureaucracies outside the district which would also have to be changed in order to stop the miseducation of children within the district.
The goals of the school people and the other beneficiaries of failing districts is to make their dysfunctional bureaucracies synonymous with support for public education and to protect and enhance these systems. In this example what is not discussed is the powerful, well endowed superstructure which under girds the failing district’s special education structure. Continuing the same example, the following are just a few of the trails that lead to the direct and indirect beneficiaries: the recipients of the 350 million ( 2002 dollars) my district annually receives given the great and increasing number of its special students; the number of school psychologists and diagnostic teachers employed to assess all these students (there are over 1,000 children waiting in the pipeline to be tested and fully evaluated); the number of other school personnel paid for by these funds; the amount of contracted services paid for by the district with these funds; and the amount of additional federal, state and private grants obtained to work with this inflated student population. Other beneficiaries are the school people who claim to be raising student achievement scores in particular schools and in the district as a whole when in reality they are just increasing the number of children who will be excused from taking achievement tests. The way achievement scores are “raised” in many urban schools and districts is not by improving the learning of children but by excusing an increasing number of students from taking the tests. These passes are given to special education students, transfer students not in the building for a sufficient time period and in some districts, the principal has a ten percent quota for excusing any children s/he deems inappropriate for testing. The indirect beneficiaries of this system extend way beyond school boards and system functionaries. They include the universities who provide the exceptional education training programs for the district personnel right up through the doctoral level training of the school psychologists. Other constituencies of beneficiaries include the thousands of federal employees who write the guidelines and administer the grant funds and the state employees who oversee these programs. There is literally an army of lawyers employed by plaintiffs as well as by the districts themselves who sue, try cases and settle issues related to the treatment of special education students. An interaction that began with a simple report on mislabeling special education students has now tapped into roots that connect widely and deeply with a great number of interlocking systems all built on the backs of the children being mislabeled. The naïve critic has become an active accomplice in making him/herself look ill-prepared for changing all these systems by the sophisticated bureaucrats’ questions and blocking strategies.
To avoid this entrapment those presenting criticisms of the existing district systems need to make clear that they support public education but not the dysfunctional bureaucracies which characterize the current school districts. (Assuming of course the critic is not a potential beneficiary of the school system seeking to be employed as a consultant, or seeking the district’s sign off on a grant he is proposing, or seeking the district’s approval to access some data he needs for some future study.) Critics need to emphasize there are multiple ways to implement their suggestions with new forms of school organization which differ markedly from those of existing school districts but that designing these new districts is not the purpose of the particular report or study. Critics need to emphasize that school people and other beneficiaries of maintaining the present district systems must be held accountable for immediately stopping miseducative practices or resign.
It is noteworthy that the example used here of the failed special education system administered in the urban districts is merely one of literally dozens that need immediate attention if children are to be saved from irreparable miseducation. This scenario of how districts deflect criticism and continue to grow their dysfunctional bureaucracies can be repeated for other blatant systemic failures. How are the curricula offered in the district developed and evaluated? How are the mandated methods for teaching various subjects determined? What is the district process for selecting, training and evaluating teachers? What are the procedures for selecting, training and evaluating principals? What is the district program for assessing student learning and achievement in addition to mandated testing? How are central office staff selected, evaluated and held accountable? How effective are the mechanisms the system uses to control and manage the district budget? What is the accountability system in place for those who exceed their budgets? What is the process for tracking funds to ensure they are used for their intended purposes? What research and evaluation is performed (and not allowed to be performed) by the district? How effective is the program which allows parents to select schools initially and to transfer their children out of failing schools? How effective is the district’s suspension and expulsion policy? What is the cost and effectiveness of the guidance personnel in the district? What is the program in place related to the selection, training and evaluation of safety personnel? How are paraprofessionals and teacher aides selected, trained, used and evaluated? What are the costs and effectiveness of the school transportation program? What is the quality and effectiveness of the after school, tutoring and extra curricula activities supported by the district? What is the impact of high stakes testing for middle school students to enter high school? What happens to graduates of the system? In truth urban school districts do not have the ability to answer any of these questions in any meaningful way. And these are just a few of the necessary performance areas which, when studied, would inevitably lead reasonable people who are not beneficiaries of these district failures to see the multiple ways in which children are damaged in irrevocable ways.
Toward a Solution
The preservation, protection and enhancement of failing urban school districts is deeply embedded in American society by the constituencies of beneficiaries who derive either direct benefits or undeserved privilege as a result of these failures. These constituencies cannot be attacked or even influenced by direct change efforts since their benefits flow from established agencies of federal and state government, effective state lobbies for maintaining present forms of funding public education; the existing body of school law and court cases, universities supported by massive funding mechanisms and certification agencies, networks of professional organizations, and a plethora of vendors and entrepreneurs who benefit from dealing with major urban districts. The power of these institutions and power blocs derives from the fundamental American value that education is a personal not a common good and the fact that the eighty percent of the people who have no children in school believe that they and their families derive great benefits and little risk from maintaining the current system. The primary motive of most Americans is to keep the present benefit structure intact and to control taxes, particularly their real estate taxes. Whatever changes might be made to make urban schooling more equitable for diverse children in poverty therefore will have to be made within present funding structures and without imposing greater costs on taxpayers no longer directly involved with schooling. This realistic view of the possibilities for changing let alone transforming any of the major dysfunctional school bureaucracies more accurately reflects the American experience of the last half century than the naïve assumption that urban school district functionaries want to stop their miseducation of diverse children in poverty and are merely waiting for the presentation of better research findings or more appeals to their sense of equity and justice.
The surest and most reasonable change strategy therefore is not to appeal to the self interest of those protecting or working in the present systems but to the self interest of those who have financial and legal power over them. Calls for transforming urban districts will inevitably elicit powerful and effective resistance unless the appeals are to the public’s sense of maintaining not changing what has always been done and this means replicating what seems to them to be working in small towns and suburbs. This can be done in an honest and straightforward manner since the taxpayers are currently paying enough to have many more effective urban schools. There are two change goals which are quickly realizable, which will have immediate impact on decreasing the miseducation in the urban districts and which will at the same time support the traditions of American schooling. The first realizable change that will have a significant impact on diverse children in poverty is not only possible but is already in the process of impacting many urban schools now. This involves selecting and preparing new populations of teachers (Part IV.). The second change is also achievable and is as likely of attainment as enacting any statute regarding urban schools would be in any state legislature. This involves decentralizing the major urban districts into districts comparable in size to middle size townships and suburbs. The benefits of such a decentralization are discussed in Part V. Appendix A. contains a draft of the elements that need to be included in such decentralization legislation. These two changes meet the test of effective change strategies in that they support the public goals of cost containment and maintain their traditional views regarding local control of small school districts.
Part IV. The Rationale for Recruiting and Preparing Adults
As Teachers of Diverse Children in Urban Poverty
The crisis in urban school schools serving diverse children in poverty is worsening. The persisting shortage of teachers who can be effective and who will remain in urban poverty schools for more than brief periods is a major cause of this crisis. The benefits of securing and preparing more effective teachers are several: fewer children will be damaged, more children will learn more and if teachers are placed as groups into failing schools these schools will be turned around. At the same time it must be recognized that getting better teachers and even turning failed individual schools into successful ones will not by themselves transform the 120 failed urban school district bureaucracies currently miseducating seven million diverse children in poverty. Selecting new populations of teachers prepared in new ways will provide more islands of success in failing districts. The belief systems and behaviors of effective urban teachers make it clear that they are focused on their students’ learning and development. They are driven to help each youngster be as successful as possible. They do not go into or stay in teaching because they want to function as educational change agents, community organizers or system reformers. Their raison d etre is their students first and last.
It is also important to understand how and why some teachers succeed in spite of the debilitating working conditions created by failed urban school bureaucracies. These organizations are not only likely to continue but worsen, creating even more negative conditions which impinge on teachers’ work and children’s learning. Indeed, there is a perverse irony here: as more effective teachers are recruited, selected and prepared, the pressures to break up or have state takeovers of failed urban districts decreases. A pernicious, debilitating school bureaucracy is, in effect, made to look workable as it secures and retains more teachers who literally drain and exhaust themselves in order to function in spite of the systems in which they work. But while good teachers can transform failed schools into successful ones, they cannot transform entire failed urban districts. At the district level, issues dealing with federal mandates, state laws, funding formulas, school board politics, superintendent turnover, central office mismanagement and local culture must be resolved before systemic change can occur. And because schools reflect rather than change society it is highly unlikely these issues will ever be dealt with in ways that transform failing urban school bureaucracies into organizations that function in the interests of children, teachers and parents. Nevertheless, recruiting, selecting and preparing the teachers needed by diverse children in poverty should be vigorously pursued because they can and will rescue individual children and transform individual schools. (The section which follows outlines a specific state law that would implement total district change.)
Much can be done to get the teachers needed. Too many decades have already passed and too many youngsters have been driven out, miseducated or been underdeveloped awaiting the change agents who would have us believe they can transform urban schools districts and their debilitating impact on teaching and learning. This is a critical issue because defenders of traditional teacher education argue that before their excellent programs of teacher education can be held accountable for their “fully qualified” graduates to succeed and remain in poverty schools, the debilitating conditions of work must be changed. This analysis argues that securing and retaining effective teachers can and must happen now because the children need them now and because the conditions in urban school districts are quite likely to get even worse.
Some Pertinent History of Teacher Training Which Helps Explain the Current Shortage
The first normal school training teachers in America was a private one started in 1823 by a Pastor Samuel Hall in Concord, Vermont. The program was a three year follow up to the elementary grades and was based on his “Lectures on School keeping.” Due to the efforts of Horace Mann and others, Massachusetts established the first state normal school in 1837. Girls were admitted at 16 and boys at 17. The program was one year in length and involved being drilled in the fundamentals. Students also took studies in surveying, physiology, the Constitution and history of the Republic. Connected with the normal school was a model school where the master would demonstrate rudimentary pedagogy to the neophytes. All future teachers were also instructed in Christian piety and morality.
During this period itinerant male school masters moved about the country and were contracted by communities to keep school for a few months. By the Civil War women were replacing men as teachers for several reasons. They worked for less money than men, they were regarded as more capable of morally training the young, they needed gainful employment if they did not marry, and their role as a purveyor of some basic skills and moral trainer was seen as the level of work women were capable of doing.
Between the Civil War and WWI. the growth of normal schools burgeoned and became extended into post secondary training programs of one and then two years. Between 1890 and 1920 30 million immigrants, mostly low income white Europeans, came to a United States with a total population of only 30 million. Those already here were extremely fearful of being overrun by non-English speakers who they believed could not function as productive citizens without some basic schooling. The highest level of education achieved by most of these immigrants was sixth grade or less until the migration subsided in the 1920’s. While the urban schools took on the mission of making Americans, teacher education remained a pastoral pastime essentially ignoring the urban schools to which most of the immigrants sent their children.
Except for the western states, every state opened normal schools and some states had over ten. During the 20th century these normal schools were extended into four year teachers colleges offering baccalaureate degrees. After WWII. they became state colleges offering comprehensive majors not limited to teaching. The old two year normal schools did not die easily and in Wisconsin the last one remained open until 1969. Along with this expansion of teacher education into multi-purpose universities came over 550 laboratory schools attached to these colleges where the latest methods of pedagogy were developed and demonstrated with white children of university faculty members and local professionals.
The knowledge base in teacher education developed after WWI. with the growth of educational psychology and educational philosophy. But neither the psychologist and test experts professionally descended from E. L. Thorndike or the progressives seeking to implement the work of John Dewey ever recognized the existence of African Americans, those in urban poverty, or people in any ethnic or class groups not seeking to abandon their cultures and melt into the mainstream. The progressives, philosophers and citizenship educators were clearly defeated by the educational psychologists who claimed to have universal constructs regarding the nature of child development, the nature of learning and the nature of evaluation and research. These studies still comprise the basic knowledge base for preparing teachers in colleges and universities today.
During this same period the land grant institutions comprising the flag ship institutions of their respective state’s public higher education systems also took on the responsibility of preparing teachers. Today, with the exception of states whose higher education was developed differently in response to later statehood, we still see the pattern of states with major land grant institutions now deeply involved in teacher education but even larger numbers of state colleges that were formerly the single purpose teacher training institutions still preparing most of the teachers. In recent years private institutions have begun contributing some teachers to urban school districts but these tend to be small numbers and not the major source of teachers for urban districts.
A few very vital points of this history are relevant to the current analysis and need to be kept in mind in order to more clearly understand why traditional programs of teacher education do not prepare enough teachers for diverse children in urban poverty.
Teacher training institutions were purposely and systematically located across rural America ( where their state college descendents remain today), because their clients were white, unmarried farm girls who needed employment.
A great number of such normal schools were needed to ensure that female teachers would not work further than fifty miles from home, could easily return home for holidays and summer work, and that the teachers being trained would likely be of the same religious and ethnic background as the children they would be training in morality and the abc’s.
The notion that school teaching is the appropriate work of young, single women has been imbedded in American culture for more than 150 years. The perception that even married women are less appropriate than single women has been reinforced during periods of economic depression when married women in many urban districts were laid off.
There were very few public normal schools started in urban areas. A few exceptions existed in St. Louis and Detroit but these closed or were subsequently included in larger multipurpose institutions. New York City, with the largest population of children in the country, never had a single publicly supported normal school but the State of New York opened twelve in rural areas.
There can be no question that teacher training in America was developed as a rural phenomenon for the children of Europeans of primarily Protestant background. Catholics tended to cluster in the cities and attend parochial schools where teachers were from religious orders and were not normal school graduates. Beginning in the 20th century however large numbers of Catholic women became urban teachers in public schools and still constitute the majority of teachers in many Eastern and Midwestern public urban school systems even today.
The need for teachers who could be effective with African Americans, other children of color, children in urban poverty and non-European populations was never a consideration in the development of the knowledge base in American teacher education.
The knowledge base purporting to explain normal child development, how normal children learn and what constitutes normal behavior that is offered in traditional programs of teacher education is derived in greatest measure from psychology where the unit of study and analysis is the individual. Other ways of understanding and explaining human behavior that reflect cultural constructs are still very minimal additions to state requirements for approving university based teacher education programs, e.g a course in Multicultural Education.
What is the import of these trends? After one understands even a few of the basic facts surrounding the development of teacher training in America it is extremely naïve to raise questions such as why teacher education is not relevant to diverse children in urban poverty, or why teacher education does not provide more teachers who will be effective in teaching all children, or why teachers who complete traditional programs of teacher education do not seem to be able to relate to all children. It was never the intention of teacher education in America to prepare teachers to teach all the children. And based on an analysis of the current output of teachers who seek to avoid teaching where they are needed most and who will not stay longer than a brief period if they do accept positions in poverty schools, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that the historical and cultural truths regarding teacher training in America still explain and predict the functioning of university based teacher education.
Current Factors Affecting the Teacher Shortage
Between 2000 and 2010 app. 2,200.000 teachers representing more than half of America’s entire teaching force will be hired. The preponderance of these will be new teachers needed to serve app. 14 million diverse children in urban and rural poverty. The phenomenon of an urban district needing thousands of teachers surrounded by suburbs and small towns where there are hundreds of applicants for one position has been well documented for over half a century. Several factors contribute to this “shortage” of teachers where they are needed most. First, the length of an average teaching career is now down to eleven years. Teachers who pursue lifelong careers as classroom teachers are now clearly in the minority. Second, is the fact that in many states the majority of those graduated and certified in traditional programs of teacher preparation never take jobs as teachers. In 1998 in my own state 71% of those graduated and certified by colleges and universities did not take jobs as teachers. In 2001 61% of the newly certified graduates did not take teaching jobs. This lower figure does not mean that more teachers entered classrooms however since the total number produced in 2001 had declined by almost 20%. These non-teaching certified graduates are frequently referred to by many experts in teacher education as “fully qualified”. But if they don’t take teaching positions because the jobs are primarily in urban schools serving diverse children in poverty, for what and for whom are these graduates “fully qualified”? The licenses issued to them by the state contain no codicils or reservations such as “is prepared to teach white children not in poverty in small towns or suburban school districts.” All fifty states issue only unrestricted, universal licenses pronouncing the bearers qualified to teach all children of a given age, or all children in a given subject matter or all children with a particular handicapping condition.
The staggering percentage of the newly certified choosing to not waste their own time or the children’s time is a second reason for the shortage. This is actually a benefit since it does not inflict potential quitters and failures on children in desperate need of competent caring teachers. Newly certified graduates not taking jobs is also a clear indication that the bearers of these licenses are being much more honest about themselves and their lack of competence than those who prepared them and who insist on pronouncing them “fully qualified”. In 1999 the SUNY system prepared 17,000 “fully qualified” teachers. The number who applied for teaching positions in New York City that year was zero. The young white adults who comprise 80% of the traditionally trained teachers simply don’t want to or cannot relate to diverse children in urban poverty.
The third reason for the teacher shortage is the number of beginners who take jobs in urban schools but fail or leave. Using data from the National Center for Educational Statistic’s School and Staffing Survey, a respected researcher concluded: “School staffing problems are primarily due to excess demand resulting from a revolving door-where large numbers of teachers depart for reasons other than retirement. This churn of teachers into and out of schools serving diverse children in poverty results in app. 50% of new teachers leaving urban districts in less than five years. In my own city 50% of the more than 1,000 new teachers hired annually will be gone in three years or less. Many quit in the first year.
The fourth major reason for the teacher shortage in urban schools is the shortage of special education teachers. This shortage is exacerbated by the fact that many suburbs, small towns, parochial and private schools contract out the education of their children with special needs to their nearby urban school districts. This not only increases the teacher shortage in urban districts but raises their costs. For example, in my state and in many others the state makes a deduction in state aid to the urban district for every special education class not taught by a fully certified teacher. No state imposes such a fiscal penalty when a district employs an uncertified teacher in math, science or other areas of continuing shortage.
A fifth reason for the teacher shortage results from greater entrance level career opportunities now available to women outside of teaching at the time of college graduation. Many however soon discover that they encounter glass ceilings and can only advance in limited ways. After age 30 this population includes many who decide to make more mature decisions than they did at age 20 about becoming teachers of diverse children in poverty.
The sixth reason for the shortage deals with college graduates of color who have greater access into a larger number of entry level career positions than in former times. As with the population of women who perceive greater opportunity for careers of higher status and greater financial reward than in teaching, this population also frequently experiences glass ceilings after age thirty. African Americans comprise fewer than 6% of all undergraduates in all fields and substantially fewer who decide as youthful undergraduates to pursue traditional university based programs of teacher education. But as career changers after aged thirty, college graduates of color (particularly women) become a primary source of teachers for diverse children in poverty in urban school districts.
The continuing and worsening teacher shortage must also take note of the special nature of teaching fields such as math and science. Math and science teachers leave at a higher rate than others; they tend to be men seeking better opportunities in other fields. While the causes of the shortage in these areas has some distinctive dimensions they are not discussed separately but are included in the analysis of the entire problem. The solutions proposed for the general shortage will also impact on these high need specializations.
Given all these reasons the question of why there is a desperate shortage of special education teachers deserves further comment. The knowledge base purporting to explain child development, how children learn and what constitutes normal behavior that is offered in traditional programs of teacher education is derived from the field of psychology where the unit of study and analysis is the individual. What is regarded as normal behavior is based on what white school psychologists and teachers believe to be normal behavior and development. For example; future teachers are taught that it is not normal for children to sit quietly all day. In my city there is a large population of Hmong children who sit quietly all day and are a source of great concern to the teachers who place more credence on psychological definitions of normal and on their own prejudices, than on what they see acted out in front of them all day everyday by perfectly normal children of a different culture. It is not accidental that in my own city with over 103,000 children in public schools that there are 18,000 children, mostly African American and mostly male, identified as emotionally disturbed, cognitively disabled or handicapped in some way. The fact that parents in poverty are enticed by state and federal programs of financial aid if they agree to have their children labeled as handicapped is little known and rarely mentioned. Neither is the fact that 145 school psychologists assisted by 100 Diagnostic Teachers receive more than 1,000 referrals from classroom teachers every year. In effect the school psychologists in my city would have us believe that more than one out of six of our children are abnormal. And that it will perfectly acceptable, given the referral rate, if by 2012 25% or one out of four of our children will be labeled as handicapped in some way. The hegemony of psychologists over the definition of normal is clear when one notes that no state gives anthropologists, sociologists or linguists the legal power to decide who is normal and what constitutes normal behavior. It should be remembered that four state certified psychologists swore under oath that, based on his responses to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Jeffrey Dahmer was sane and capable of making normal moral judgments. The fact that he had actually eaten 22 people was ignored in favor of his test scores. The bizarre reality imposed by those licensed to determine who and what is normal is that the results of tests which are supposed to predict behavior are given greater credence than actual behavior. This explains why school children, once labeled in primary grades, never get unlabeled in upper grades even when they subsequently earn good grades or pass the eighth grade tests for high school admission. In effect, “fully qualified” teachers prepared in traditional university based programs are systematically trained to view many of their children as somehow lacking, deviant, or having special needs. It is certainly understandable that new teachers unable to connect with and manage their students will see things that are wrong with the children and their families rather than the inadequacies in themselves. Trapped by biased, limited definitions of how a normal child should develop, behave and learn language, it is inevitable that teachers would refer children they cannot connect with for testing to equally limited school psychologists who then provide the backup test scores and psychological evaluations to show that these children are not capable of functioning in normal ways.
In studies of quitters and leavers the most commonly offered reasons they cite refer to either poor working conditions, the difficulty of managing the children, or both. A typical list includes the following reasons: overwhelming workload, discipline problems, low pay, little respect, lack of support and the clerical workload. Reasonable people have every reason to question the validity of these responses, the maturity of the leavers making these responses and the quality of the teacher preparation offered those who give these reasons for leaving. Are we really to believe that even youngsters fresh out of teacher education programs have no idea that teachers’ salaries are low until after they take jobs and actually receive their first paycheck? Are we really to believe that even new teachers are unaware of the media attacks and the public criticism of urban poverty schools until after they are employed in them? Are we seriously to believe that as new teachers they had no idea before taking a position that working as a teacher would require an hour or two of planning time every night? Or that there would be records to keep, papers to grade and parents to see? People who work in offices, stores, factories, beauty salons and drive taxis and who have not completed 60 credits of education courses and student teaching are well aware of these factors as the typical working conditions of teachers. Indeed, interviews of high school students indicate quite clearly that even adolescents are well aware of these factors as the normal conditions of their teachers’ work. Quitters and leavers who offer these reasons for terminating their employment and those who accept and analyze these responses as authentic explanations, make the findings of studies on why teachers quit or fail highly problematic.
While poor working conditions contribute to teacher losses, in-depth interviews we have had with quitters and failures from schools serving diverse children in urban poverty over the past 45 years reveal other explanations for leaving than those gleaned from superficial questionnaires, surveys and brief exit interviews. Our final classroom observations of teachers who are failing also support the existence of more basic reasons for leaving than those gained from typical exit interviews. Leavers are understandably chary about having anything on their records that they believe might make it difficult for them to get a reference for a future job. They are also savvy enough to try and not say things that might make them appear biased or prejudiced toward children of color or their families. It takes an hour or longer for a skilled interviewer to establish rapport, trust and an open dialogue in order to extract more authentic and less superficial reasons for why teachers leave. For example, the quitter’s citation of “discipline and classroom management problems” as the reason for leaving takes on new meaning when one learns what the respondent is really saying. In typical surveys quitters and failures frequently mention the challenge of working with “difficult” students and this comment is simply noted or checked or counted. In in-depth interviews where rapport has been established this cause is amplified by leavers into more complete explanations of why discipline and classroom management are difficult for them. They make statements such as, “I really don’t see myself spending the rest of my life working with these children.” or “It’s clear that these children don’t want me as their teacher.” When the reasons for the disconnect between themselves and the children are probed further, leavers will frequently make statements such as the following: “These kids will never learn standard English.” or “My mother didn’t raise me to listen to ‘m.f.’ all day.” or “These children could not possibly be Christians.” or “These kids are just not willing or able to follow the simplest directions.” The comments of quitters and leavers which may have at first appeared to indicate a simple, straightforward lack of skills on the part of a neophyte still learning to maintain discipline, can now be recognized as actually representing much deeper issues. Rather than a simple matter which can be corrected by providing more training to child-centered beginning teachers who understandably just need some tips on classroom management and more experience, we have now uncovered an irreconcilable chasm between the teachers and their students. Teacher attrition increases as the number of minority students increases. Quitters and leavers cannot connect with, establish rapport, or reach diverse children in urban poverty because at bottom they do not respect and care enough about them to want to be their teachers. These attitudes and perceptions are readily sensed by students who respond in kind by not wanting these people as their teachers. Contrary to the popular debates on what teachers need to know to be effective, teachers in urban schools do not quit because they lack subject matter or pedagogy. Quitters and leavers know how to divide fractions and they know how to write lesson plans. They leave because they cannot connect with the students and it is a continuous, draining hassle for them to keep students on task. In a very short period leavers are emotionally and physically exhausted from struggling against resisting students for six hours every day. In our classroom observations of failing teachers we have never found an exception to this condition: if there is a disconnect between the teacher and the students no mentoring, coaching, workshop, or class on discipline and classroom management can provide the teacher with the magic to control children s/he does not genuinely respect and care about. In truth, the graduates of traditional programs of teacher education are “fully qualified” if we limit the definition of this term to mean they can pass written tests of subject matter and pedagogy. Unfortunately while knowledge of subject matter and pedagogy are absolutely necessary they are not sufficient conditions for being effective in urban schools. Knowing what and how to teach only becomes relevant after the teacher has connected and established a positive relationship with the students.
Many who give advice on the teachers needed to solve the shortage frequently assert that these children need to be taught by the “best and the brightest.” Unfortunately, the typical criteria used to define “the best and the brightest” identify the precise individuals who are most likely to quit and fail in urban schools. The majority of early leavers have higher I.Q.’s, GPA’s, and standardized test scores than those who stay; more have also had academic majors. Teachers who earn advanced degrees within the prior two years leave at the highest rates. Those who see teaching as primarily an intellectual activity are eight times more likely to leave the classroom. In 1963 my Milwaukee Intern Program became the model for the National Teacher Corps. In the ten years (1963-1972) of the Corps’ existence app. 100,000 college graduates with high GPA’s were prepared for urban teaching. While many stayed in education fewer than 5% remained in the classroom for more than three years. This was the largest, longest study ever done in teacher education. The fact that the shibboleth “best and brightest” survives is testimony to the fact that many prefer to maintain their pet beliefs about teacher education in spite of the facts. In effect, the criteria typically used to support the “best and brightest” are powerful, valid identifiers of failures and quitters.
While being an effective teacher of diverse children in poverty has some intellectual and academic aspects, it is primarily a human relations activity demanding the ability to make and maintain positive, supportive connections with diverse children, school staff and caregivers. The term “best and the brightest” might be more appropriately used to refer to individuals who can actually demonstrate a propensity to connect with and cause diverse urban children in poverty to learn rather than as a predictor of which college youth will earn high GPA’s and do well on written tests of teaching. Those threatened by this view misconstrue my advocacy to mean that I believe that knowledge of subject matter and knowledge of teaching are unimportant. Not so. There is substantial research and no question that teachers who know more English usage and who have greater knowledge of the subject matters they teach, have children who learn more. But it is only after their propensity to relate to diverse children in urban poverty has been demonstrated that the teachers’ knowledge of subject matter and how to teach can become relevant.
This raises the more basic issue of whether future teachers (or anyone) can be taught to connect with diverse children in poverty or whether this is an attribute learned from mature reflection about one’s life experiences after one has had some life experiences. If it is, as I believe, the latter then it is an attribute that must be selected for and not assumed to be the result of completing university coursework as a late adolescent or young adult. Indeed, there is substantial evidence that college courses and direct experiences reinforce rather than change teacher education students’ prejudices and abilities to connect with diverse children in poverty. Because of selective perception students in university training programs merely “see” what they are predisposed to “see” in their coursework and direct experiences. Open students become more open and narrow students reinforce their limited views of the world. The effect of teacher education is to make teacher candidates more predisposed to believe whatever they believed when they began their programs. This is also true of the effects of in-service programs on teachers. Building on this dynamic that trainees see what we want to see makes selecting the right people a more productive approach to teacher education than assuming that training programs are treatments powerful enough to transform deep-seated values and ideologies. Given the need for teachers with the belief systems and the predispositions to effectively relate to diverse children in dysfunctional bureaucracies, there should no longer be any question that selecting those with the appropriate dispositions determines the usefulness of any training.
The Nature of Adolescence and Adulthood as it Pertains to the Education of Teachers for Diverse Children in Poverty
There is an extensive literature on the nature of adolescence and adulthood. Much of it is focused on the life stages of people generally while a lesser amount refers to the stages of teacher development. Almost all of this literature comes from psychologists or writers who use psychological constructs and suffers from the same ethnocentricity that characterizes the knowledge base in teacher education. But since over 90% of those in traditional university programs of teacher education are white youth from working class and middle class families the characteristics attributed to these young adults is most relevant and worth noting.
University magic occurs when students graduate from high school. They are declared “adults” by their respective states and by the universities in which they enroll. Bestowing this status frees the university from having to pay any serious attention to students’ natures or to the stages of their development. The notion that it is critical to know the nature of the learners and the nature of their development in order to teach them is of no concern and completely ignored by university faculty. In place of stages of development higher education relies on contrived categories of status representing the university organization, e.g. freshman, undergraduate, full time and GPA level. The areas in which youth force universities to respond to their developmental needs are in extra-curricular activities, food service, health care, and rules related to housing and safety. It is no accident therefore that out-of-class activities which do respond to the nature and level of their development frequently cause more change in students than their formal classes.
Late adolescents and young adults are still struggling with the issue of self-identity fighting off peer pressure, asserting independence from family and grappling with their own struggle to achieve meaning and purpose in life. They are haunted by questions like, “Will I find someone to love me?” “Will I be able to earn a living?” How do I gain independence from my mother and still show her I love her?” The period of the 20’s is frequently identified as a time of impatience and idealism. “Now” becomes an obsession and change must be quick. Those in their early twenties are infatuated with ideals but have not experienced or observed enough of life to provide a workable basis for understanding themselves or the world. This often leads to impetuous behavior regarded by authority figures as rebellious or lacking in judgment. In American society these and other insecurities are normal concerns and explain the almost complete self absorption of youth as they seek to answer the basic questions of identity. Teaching, on the other hand, is a continuous effort to inspire confidence in others. Juxtaposing the demands of teaching with the natural and common needs of young adults in American society highlights the inappropriateness of the match. The willingness and ability to empathize with and nurture others is the essence, the very soul of teaching. These attributes are present in very few college youth. Because the work of the teacher requires building self-esteem in others not in trying to find oneself, there is no stage of development less appropriate for training teachers than late adolescence and young adulthood.
Mature adults have a strong and reasonable sense of who they are and are self-accepting. Such adults are sufficiently confident to be motivated by intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards as they engage in a wide range of learning activities. The benefit of a university education to mature adults is that they are able to integrate their personal experiences with theory, research, logic and a system of morality and apply them to the persistent problems of living in a free society. Educated adults consciously test common sense and unexamined assumptions against various ways of knowing. Freed of the adolescent’s need to realize parental expectations and the pressures of equally immature peers, adults seek to reconcile their inner direction with the social good. Terms such as integration, generativity and self-realization have all been used to define adults who have reached the level of aligning their proclivities with the demands of society. They seek self enhancement by contributing.
In Kohlberg’s theory of moral development individuals move through the following stages:
I. concern about obedience,
II. satisfaction of needs and wants,
III. concern with conformity,
IV. concern with preserving society,
V. concern with what is right beyond legalities,
VI. concern with universal ethical principles
According to Kohlberg, only 10 per cent of those in their twenties ever attain Stages V. or VI. His findings indicate that “college students are capable of employing reasoning at these levels yet rarely do so.”
Erikson’s theory of human development includes eight stages: trust vs. mistrust (first year); autonomy vs. doubt (ages 2-3); initiative vs. guilt (ages 4-5); industry vs. inferiority ( ages 6-11); identity vs. role confusion (ages 12-18); intimacy vs. isolation (18- through young adulthood); generativity vs. self-absorption (middle age); and integrity vs. despair (old age). For Erikson generativity can only occur after individuals have resolved the issue of intimacy. Generativity is most common in young parents but can be found in individuals who are actively concerned with the welfare of young people and making the world a better place for them to live and work. Those who fail to develop generativity fall into a state of self-absorption in which their personal needs and comforts become their predominant concern. Researchers building on Erikson’s model have extensively studied college students to determine at what point they develop a sense of their own identity and found that only 22 per cert achieve this level.
Other researchers have described college youth as lacking commitment to any philosophy or set of beliefs, living for the moment and not delaying gratification. Piaget equated his fourth stage of formal operations with adulthood. At this level individuals engage in abstract thinking, prepositional thinking, combinatorial thinking, hypothetical-deductive thinking, thinking ahead, metacognitive thinking and self reflection. Piaget found that college students rarely reach this level of thinking .
Kitchener followed college youth through their undergraduate years and found them beginning as moral and intellectual absolutists, moving to a stage of relativism when any opinion is as good as any other and ending up in a search for identify with most never getting beyond the middle stage of relativism. Other models of development focus on stages of development and the nature of knowledge sought in each. Late adolescents and young adults typically use their direct experiences in support of absolutism, they then move through the stage of weighing conflicting perceptions (relativism) and conclude with a more mature view of reality and multiple ways of knowing. This last stage is seldom or ever reached in college youth. It is ironic that youthful college students who believe so much in the value of their own experiences as the best way to learn undervalue the experiences of the children they teach by limiting them to texts and vicarious experiences.
Teacher educators bombarded by preservice students’ fears and apprehensions regarding classroom discipline are well aware of the childlike stage in which many about to be certified find themselves. There is seldom little if any concern with higher levels of thinking or with how issues of social justice and equity can be infused into school curricula. Indeed, there is strong resistance to these issues. As they move toward graduation and certification there is a marked narrowing of student interests and concerns until students finally narrow the complex problems of teaching into the one grand obsession which precludes their thinking about anything: “Will I be able to control the class?” This is the overriding concern of the new graduates awarded universal licenses by all states and heralded by university based teacher educators as “fully qualified.”
There is no value in simply getting older. But serious reflection upon one’s life experience is more likely to result in individuals reaching higher levels of development. Having families, work experiences and sustained careers provide individuals with rich and varied experiential material to integrate into their cognitive and emotional development. The potential of teacher growth through reflection is great. So too are the dangers for those individuals who have difficulty reflecting accurately upon their strengths and weaknesses. Clearly those with more life and work experiences have more with which to build up their perceptual repertoires. Reflection is a process not only more characteristic of advanced life stages than of youth but a process that needs meaningful experiences to draw upon.
Ultimately it is the high level of conceptual work that star teachers serving diverse children in urban poverty perform which drives my commitment to the need for greater teacher maturity. If we perceive of teaching as essentially a mindless set of jejune tasks (e.g. the 19th century school- marm teaching the abc’s and giving directions) then the levels of cognition or development reached by the practitioners would be of little importance. Indeed, many urban school districts have given up trying to find teachers who can think at all and have mandated that instruction be done by reading from scripts. On the other hand, if we believe teaching requires higher-order abilities such as the humane application of abstract concepts to interactions with diverse children and youth in urban poverty, then the teachers’ cognitive and affective development becomes a crucial determinant of success. There have been multiple studies (over 200) in many countries which have found that there are four general developmental abilities which are highly related to success in any field:
3) Symbolization, and
4) Commitment to democratic values.
All four of these correlate with greater maturity. In the American sample there was an inverse correlation between SAT scores and level of maturity.
Pintrich’s landmark summary of the research on the learning and development of college students and its implications for teacher education is a meta-analysis which, to my knowledge, no college or university program of teacher education has ever referred to let alone utilized. Reasonable people cannot read Pintrich’s summary of what is known about human development and learning and still focus on young adults as the primary source of teachers. Using any respectable theory of human development leads to the same conclusion. For white, working and middle class females growing up in American society there is no more inappropriate stage of life to prepare for teaching than young adulthood… and for youthful males their personal development and the demands of teaching are an even greater mismatch. What do these scholarly summaries about teachers’ levels of development mean when translated and applied to the real world? We are supposed to believe that a system of traditional teacher education which would take a young, immature white male from a small town in Wisconsin, put him through a traditional program of teacher education, graduate, certify and declare him “fully qualified” at age 22 is engaged in a perfectly reasonable activity. Further, we are to believe that it would be a good idea for this young man to come to the Milwaukee Public Schools (or to any urban district in America) and be hired as a teacher because he is now a professional practitioner who can shape the mind and character of a seventeen year old African American girl with a child and a part-time job trying to make a place for herself in the world. Or that he has the knowledge, skills and predispositions to help a Hispanic five year old make sense of the world. Or that he has the competencies needed to help a young adolescent survive the throes of puberty and the peer pressure to drop out.
The best that can be said about such a monumental disconnect between the nature of who is in teacher preparation and the demands of practice in urban schools is that we should be grateful to this young man and his cohort for never taking jobs. They know and are willing to declare their inadequacies more truthfully than the faculty who trained them. The faculty declaring these youth to be “fully qualified” are beneficiaries of a university system that views its late adolescent and young adult students preparing to become teachers as its clientele. Diverse children in urban poverty being miseducated by dysfunctional bureaucracies are not conceived of as the clientele of teacher educators.
Where Do Urban Schools Currently Get Their Beginning Teachers?
Although the typical age of college graduates has risen from age 22 to age 26, it is still generally true that most of those preparing to teach are college age youth, that is, late adolescents and young adults. This analysis is not an advocacy for preventing all such individuals from becoming teachers but to shift the balance. The current emphasis remains app. 80% still being youngsters below age 26 who are full-time university students and only app. 20% being older “non-traditional” post baccalaureate students or adults in alternative certification or on-the job training programs. Given the needs in urban poverty districts this balance should be reversed so that the majority of those in teacher training would be adults over age 30. Denigrating labels such as “retreads” or “career changers” indicate the power of the misconceptions and stereotypes regarding the age at which it is generally believed that individuals should become new teachers. My best estimate is that of the app. 500.000 traditionally prepared teachers under age 26 produced annually, fewer than 15% seek employment in the 120 major urban districts serving app. 7 million diverse children in poverty. This represents app. 75,000 of the colleges and universities annual output. The research based on my Urban Teacher Selection Interview indicates further that of the 15% who are willing to apply to work in urban school districts that only one in ten (or 7,500) of those under aged 26 will stay long enough (three years) to become successful teachers in urban schools. What this means is that app. one half million youngsters under 26 in over 1,250 traditional program of teacher education are supplying the 120 largest urban school districts with about 1.5% of their annual teacher output. If I am under-estimating this by tenfold, which I do not believe I am, then traditional college based programs of teacher education would still be preparing about 15% of their graduates willing to try urban teaching. The effectiveness of this minimal output must also be considered since 50% of those who deign to try urban teaching will leave in five years or less.
While this is obviously a very small output from traditional teacher preparing institutions it represents a small bloc of young people who do have the potential for teaching diverse children in urban poverty and for whom the doors of the profession must remain open. But should this population of young teachers represented by this 1.5% contribution remain as the predominant body of future teachers or should policy makers be looking for other constituencies from which to draw and develop the teachers America needs? If a plant made television sets but only 1.5% of them worked where we could plug them in would we insist on trying to improve this production model or would we be seeking new ways to make televisions? The reality of the situation is that more mature adults have for years been the main source of the teacher supply in many urban school systems. For decades, urban school systems have kept their schools open by using pools of local adults who are college graduates to serve as long term subs and provisional teachers. In my relatively small city there are over 240 such teachers. Many school districts now pay the tuition of these individuals as they work their way through local traditional teacher certification programs after they have been teaching for substantial periods. This district support is most common in special education and other high need specializations. District support reaches outrageous proportions when, for example, the New York City schools pay $12,500 apiece in tuition for thousands of interns already working as responsible teachers of record in the NYC schools to complete certification programs at local colleges. These are millions of dollars which should be spent on children. New York State (as well as many other states) needs to question why their well-endowed systems of public higher education are using tax payer funds to prepare “fully qualified” teachers who do not take jobs or can succeed in schools where they are needed most. (Remember the 17,000 “fully qualified” SUNY graduates who never applied to work in New York City.) As more school districts spend more funds which were intended for children’s schooling on teachers’ certification at the same time that the overwhelming number of “fully qualified” graduates of traditional teacher education programs do not take jobs where they are needed most, or quit and fail if they do, more questions will inevitably be raised in more state legislatures regarding the continuation of state support for unproductive traditional programs of teacher education. With the shortfalls in states’ budgets it is inevitable that more questions will be raised about state support for preparing teachers who don’t teach. Texas gave up on this non-productive system in 1985.
It is quite clear that the current and future teachers of diverse children in urban poverty are non-traditional populations of adults trained in on-the-job forms of university-school partnerships or by the urban school districts themselves. Those who cannot recognize this reality are those who have a stake in not wanting to be convinced that the present system of teacher preparation is not working for the urban districts. In truth, traditional teacher educators could put all of the alternative certification programs they rail against out of business right now if they were able to prepare teachers for the real world rather than for the best of all non-existent ones. It is difficult for traditional programs of teacher education to maintain they know best how to prepare teachers when they don’t do it. The excuse is that “we are preparing excellent teachers in sufficient numbers but cannot be held accountable for their performance or whether they stay because the conditions of work in urban schools are driving them out.”
Will the Conditions of Work for Beginning Teachers Improve or Worsen?
While I have argued that teachers leave primarily because they cannot connect with children it is necessary to recognize that the conditions under which beginning teachers work in urban schools are horrific and are driving out not only those who should have never been hired but many who have the potential for becoming effective teachers and even stars. The problem faced by policy makers is whether the strategy of recruiting and training more mature people who can succeed in schools as they presently are is a better strategy than continuing to focus on traditional populations of teachers and waiting for change agents to transform the conditions under which they will work in failing urban school districts.
In my own city we train beginning teachers who are often expected to work under conditions that are medieval: rooms without windows, over 30 middle school students in a class including 6 or more students with handicapping conditions, insufficient, outdated textbooks, no dictionaries, no paper, no access to a copier that works, no computers connected to the internet, science rooms without running water or any materials, no parking, and no closet that locks, or even a hook to hang up one’s coat. Teachers in my city spend an average of $600 dollars a year of their own money on supplies. We’ve had beginners use their own funds to buy chalk. When I recently asked a principal to provide a teacher with some chalk he replied, “The teachers knew how much money we had for supplies and they chose to use it up by January. What do you want from me?” Observing the equipment, supplies and materials that urban teachers typically have to work with frequently leads one to question whether these teachers are working in the United States of America. In 2001 I visited schools in New York City on behalf of the New York State Department of Education. These classrooms were exactly like the ones I was in as a child in the same city 65 years ago. The only difference I could see was that there was an electric clock on the wall. In this financial and cultural world center I observed many caring, well intentioned beginners whose only teaching material was a blackboard or paper already used on one side. Many of our urban schools function as isolated third world outposts in the midst of a 21st century technological society. Being processed through an urban district’s cumbersome personnel systems for an initial appointment, securing an assignment to a particular school and classroom, and then meeting the never-ending paperwork and clerical demands wear any reasonable person down in short order. In my own city over one third of the teachers are hired without having to meet anyone face to face. But these are not the full extent of the negative conditions beginners face. Focusing on test scores to the exclusion of any thoughtful teaching and learning, endless paperwork and trying to teach in classrooms with an average of 120 interruptions per week create exhausting pressures. The mindless, overpowering bureaucracies of urban school districts seem organized for the express purpose of driving out the beginners who care the most and retaining only the strong insensitives. Advocating what “should be” does not change the nature of what urban schools are or will be. We may all agree that the conditions of work faced by beginners is a critical factor in driving out many with high potential but the critical question remains; Is it likely that these conditions will improve or worsen? Unfortunately, endless status studies and media stories of these conditions do not change or improve them. Following is a prognosis for just five of the most commonly cited conditions of work: salaries, safety, class size, principals and testing.
Salaries. In my city a single mother with two or more children (a typical profile of one pool who are likely to stay in urban teaching) will earn a starting salary that is low enough to meet the state’s poverty criterion and will entitle her to food stamps. In future, teacher salaries will not increase in real dollars and are likely to fall further behind others of comparable education in other occupations. Much worse than the annual rate of inflation are the out-of-control costs of health care which are predicted to triple in the next decade. Urban school districts are negotiating greater contributions from teachers to help cover these costs but will still be forced to put whatever monies they might have used for salary raises into health care. In my own city the teachers’ benefit package is already 55% so that a beginning teacher paid $28,000 costs the district $43,400. By 2012 a very conservative estimate is that the benefits package will be at least 80%. This means that a beginning teacher paid $35,000 will cost the district $63,000 per year… and this assumes that the teachers will be paying for a greater share of their health care thereby decreasing their real income.
School Safety. The amount that urban districts pay for school safety personnel and equipment will continue to increase. This not only diverts funds from educational purposes but seriously alters school climate transforming them from educational institutions into custodial ones. This is already true in most of the major urban districts. In many urban middle schools there is more invested in hall cameras and safety equipment and personnel than in computers or computer assisted instruction. As more time of professional staff is directed to issues of control it casts a pall over the self concepts of beginning teachers who have great needs for perceiving of themselves as educators rather than as monitors or safety personnel. It is not likely that in future schools will either give up their custodial functions or that they will become safer places.
Class Size. This condition has a great impact on beginners. It will continue to move in two directions. In a few states which mandate smaller classes, usually for primary grades, there will be a sharp increase in the teacher shortage but smaller classes for those who take jobs in these states. In most urban districts however class size will increase in response to higher birth rates among the urban poor. These increases in class size will be worst in urban middle schools where teachers face the most behavior problems and where most of the students who will not make it to high school are retained for an extra year or more. In urban middle schools teachers work with between 100 and 150 students daily. These schools are likely to be places where large classes make the conditions of work extremely difficult for beginners. Caring teachers recognize that this is the last chance for many youth to make it or drop out before getting to high school and as a result they work especially hard. But the conditions of work in urban middle schools will continue to make it more likely that the teachers who stay for more than five years are likely to be the strong insensitives rather than those who are caring and committed. Prohibitive costs make it un- likely that the goal of reducing class size beyond primary levels is one that will be realized in the urban districts.
Supportive Principals. There is a growing of shortage of effective urban school principals. It is not uncommon for major districts to fire as many as fifty at a time. In addition, an increasing number of urban districts now hold the principal accountable, on an annual basis, for raising test scores. Raising these expectations for principals cuts down on the pool of those who can be effective in such demanding roles. It is noteworthy that beginning teachers frequently cite “having a supportive principal’ as a critical factor in their professional development and whether or not they leave. There is a continuing and growing shortage of school leaders of color who can function effectively in African American and Latino communities. Principals are still drawn from the ranks of former teachers and assistant principals in the same urban district. Unless there is an increase in the pool of teachers of color therefore the pool from which future principals of color will be drawn will not increase. The obstacle to turning this situation around is that every urban district has a shortage of effective principals now. This means that most of the teachers and assistant principals who will comprise the pool of future applicants to become principals may never work for or even see a principal functioning as an accountable, instructional educator leading an urban school as if it were an effective community based organization in a democratic, pluralistic society. As the shortage of effective principals increases the demands and expectations for what this role can accomplish increases. The growing expectation that the principal can no longer be a building manager but must be the instructional leader of a non-profit community organization will deepen this shortage.
Without such models of success to emulate, the most likely prognosis is that tomorrow’s principals will function in the same ways and at the same levels as today’s. This makes the likelihood that beginning teachers will be getting more support from an increasing pool of more effective principals problematic.
Tests. The number of tests taken by students in urban schools is not likely to diminish. District and state mandates have now made testing a fact of life for urban teachers. In some districts the curriculum is so tightly aligned with the mandated tests that teachers actually follow scripts to cover all topics in the exact ways the students will be tested for. This is a critical condition of work for many beginners who are misled into believing that as teachers they will be professional decision-makers rather than school employees required to spend most of their time as test tutors. The very strong likelihood is that the pressures felt by teachers to prepare their children for tests will continue and increase since so many will be assigned to schools officially designated as failing.
On the positive side there has been an increase in several conditions which beginners rate as critical conditions of work. First, there is more teacher teaming than in past. This means that beginning teachers have greater access to veteran teachers’ ideas and experiences. Second, there is more mentoring of beginning teachers by experienced teacher with released time. Both of these factors are expensive because they involve greater staff costs and while implemented in some urban districts they are cut back in many others.
If these are the five conditions cited by most urban teachers as the most debilitating and if all five of these are likely to worsen, is it a wiser strategy to continue to prepare teachers in traditional ways and wait for their working conditions to improve, or to prepare new populations of teachers who can succeed in today’s failing urban school districts?
Securing the Teachers
Traditional teacher education cannot provide the great number of teachers who can be effective and who will remain in urban schools for more than brief periods. Recruiting and preparing the teachers needed for the real world will require new forms of teacher education employing the following processes:
1)Recruiting mature college graduates from all fields;
2) Selecting only individuals whose belief systems predispose them to see teaching and schooling as a means of fostering equity and justice for diverse children in poverty;
3) Preparing candidates while they function as fully responsible, paid teachers of record in schools serving diverse children in poverty;
4) Providing a support system that includes coaching from skilled mentors and a technology system that connects them instantly to resources and problem solving,
5) Offering professional studies which are closely aligned with the actual behaviors candidates must perform as teachers; and
6) Evaluating and recommending candidates for licensure on the basis of their children’s learning.
Using these procedures we have trained diverse, mature college graduates from all fields of study for the Milwaukee Public Schools since 1990. 78% of them are minorities and 94% of them are still there after a decade. Securing the teachers that diverse children in urban poverty deserve requires taking some initiatives which are in opposition to the current practices and culture in traditional teacher education.
1. The clients of teacher preparation are not students in programs of teacher education but the diverse children in poverty in urban schools who need effective teachers. This change of focus causes many shifts in practice, the most notable being that teacher candidates are put through selection and training procedures that result in significantly more of them self selecting out or being failed before they are licensed.
2. The great shortage of teachers does not mean that standards should be lowered but that they must be raised. Teachers who will be effective and who will remain are individuals who not only have knowledge of subject matter and pedagogy but who can connect with diverse children in poverty and can function under extremely adverse working conditions.
3. Candidates should not be admitted into programs of teacher education because they have passed selection criteria at a college or university. Urban school districts must first process candidates through their selection procedures. Only those who the district is willing to hire and to guarantee a placement should be admitted to preparation programs.
4. The locus of preparation must be urban school classrooms in which the candidates function as teachers of record. The various pools of adults who can be recruited, selected and prepared to be effective in urban schools envision themselves changing careers in order to function in the role of teachers. They are not willing to take on the role of students in teacher education programs and have demonstrated clearly, over decades, that they will not be recruited if their primary role is to become college students rather than teachers. This means alternative certification programs, intern programs and on-the-job training programs must be used to recruit and prepare mature candidates.
5.The traditional practice of young college students deciding they would like to be teachers of a particular age or subject matter and then seeking employment after graduation must be abandoned. The starting point for creating the pools of teachers to be trained in the various specializations should be based on the projections of teacher need in the local urban school districts. Then those who can fill the specific school needs for the various teacher specializations should be actively recruited, selected and prepared.
6. For teachers to remain and be effective their training program cannot focus on universal truths re: the supposed universal nature of all children, teaching and learning. Neither can it be preparation focused on the best of all model professional schools since these are nonexistent worlds. From the outset candidates’ preparation must focus on serving particular groups of children from specific local cultures attending schools in a particular urban district. Preparing candidates for no place in particular and assuming they will be able to teach all children everywhere will only perpetuate the current system of “fully qualified” graduates not taking jobs, quitting or failing. There is no shortage of teacher candidates whose primary motive is to secure licenses which will enable them to be hired in any state. The need is for teachers for specific urban schools serving particular constituencies. Mature adults from a specific urban area who begin with a focused local, urban commitment are more likely to not only succeed but remain in urban schools.
7. The tradition of waiting for young undergraduate students to apply to a university to be prepared as teachers must be replaced with aggressive and targeted marketing programs directed at pools of local, adult college graduates, particularly those of color. Nationwide and traditional forms of recruitment by urban school districts competing with each other for a limited pool of young minority graduates need to be replaced by strategies which focus on mature residents of the local metropolitan area. Local churches and faith-based community organizations are basic to the recruitment of African American and Latino applicants. While women and mothers with children in the very same school systems in which they would like to become teachers are the primary target, ways of reaching local male pools must be utilized. New ways of explaining the work of a teacher in an urban school district need to be an integral part of honest, realistic marketing that lets applicants know what they are getting into from day one. Signing bonuses and similar inducements for enticing reluctant applicants who lack commitment to the diverse children in the particular urban area are counterproductive and should be discontinued.
8. Specific attributes of great (star) urban teachers should guide the selection of new teachers into preparation programs. Traditional criteria which predict success in college or on written tests of teaching should be irrelevant to the selection process. All programs of preparation should utilize both interviews of applicants which compare them to star teachers and observing candidates actually relating to children and youth. These are the two most powerful predictors of success with diverse children in urban poverty.
9. The post baccalaureate level is the primary source for the new pools of teacher candidates who need to be recruited. There should be no limitation on the fields of study which these candidates have completed. Considerations of grade point and other traditional admission criteria used by graduate schools are irrelevant criteria. It is counterproductive to focus on or even include masters degree studies during the first year of any internship, residency or on-the-job training program.
Considering the factors beginning teachers say they need or would like versus those they regard as debilitating, the likelihood is far greater that the negative conditions for beginning teachers in urban schools will not only continue but worsen. What this means for securing teachers who will stay and become effective is clear. While all constituencies must do everything possible to try and improve the conditions under which beginning urban teachers work we cannot be naïve at the expense of children in poverty schools. The need is for teachers who can be effective with today’s children and youth in today’s schools. We cannot take the pious position that it is unfair or even immoral for beginning teachers to function in today’s schools and therefore we as teacher educators cannot be held accountable for who we select or how we train them until the urban schools are transformed. There are real children, spending the only childhood they will ever have going to these schools everyday. Demanding that the schools improve before we can be expected to provide effective teachers for such places will sacrifice the education of 14 million children while we wait for change agents who have been extremely unsuccessful up to now. The most prudent policy must assume that whether these schools stay the same or get even worse we will recruit and prepare caring teachers who will make a difference immediately,
Part V. Decentralization and Accountable School Leadership
There are many critical elements that would be necessary to include in a state statute decentralizing its urban school districts. There is no one template that can be used to cover the peculiarities that will necessarily arise in various states. The example offered in Appendix A. is merely a starter example of some of the critical elements that are likely to be useful in several states similar to my own. My strong feeling is that if decentralization statutes are done effectively and with relevance to the needs of the particular cities and states there will be some degree of flexibility and variation in these statutes. At the same time there are some fundamental issues that must in some form be achieved by every effort to decentralize if it is to be successful. Each of these required elements refers to building various forms of accountability into the statute.
Accountability Elements Which Should Be Achieved in Decentralization Statutes
An elected Mayor through his Fiscal Manager rather than a superintendent should be held directly responsible for the fiscal oversight of all the schools in the city. As an elected official this individual can be held accountable.
There should be no district wide central office allowed to become established by the Fiscal Manager. No dysfunctional bureaucracies absorbing funds that should be used for the education of children can grow and take resources away from schools if there are no central offices.
There should be no miniature central offices created in the newly decentralized districts. Each of these districts should be able to function with the level of administration currently typical in their surrounding suburban and township districts.
There must be an end to city-wide school boards trying to make policy with a massive budget, (in many cases over a billion dollars), that is beyond their span of control and understanding. The Fiscal Manager reports to the Mayor not a board. Each of the newly created districts will have its own local school board.
The newly constituted districts of up to 5,000 students are small enough to provide the children personal attention but sufficiently large to provide all the options needed in a modern, effective school district. As there are shifts in population these districts may vary in size but should not be allowed to grow beyond 5,000.
The newly constituted local districts will not be administered by superintendents and the inevitable staffs that build up around superintendents’ offices, but by a school principal chosen by his/her peers on a limited term basis. Since there will be only twelve or so schools in each district the local school boards will be able to hold school principals directly and clearly accountability for the quality of teaching and learning in every school. The principal who serves as the local “superintendent” should be viewed as a temporary assignment rotated among the local district’s principals.
The newly constituted districts should have two clear accountability lines: one fiscal and the other educational. The fiscal oversight is through the Fiscal Manager who is the deputy to the mayor. The educational oversight is through local school boards to the state department of education as is the case with all the surrounding suburbs and townships.
The currently powerless urban parents and citizens must have the same rights and immediate contacts with their schools as other citizens in the state.
Aside from achieving these essential goals, the nature of each state’s decentralization statute should vary and be sufficiently flexible to account for local conditions.
A Note on A Critical Omission in This Advocacy
It will be readily noted by those familiar with failing urban school districts as well as by parents, business and community constituencies with experience in dealing with urban districts that effective urban schools in failing districts inevitable are led by outstanding principals. In future it will be necessary to recognize that an effective urban principal in a failing school district is not a building manager and more than an instructional leader. S/he is the leader of a non-profit community organization. The small number of outstanding principals that can be readily identified in every failing district are not products of the training institutions where they took courses to earn their state licenses, nor are they products of the school systems where they worked their way up as teachers and assistant principals. They are atypical mavericks who became effective school leaders in spite of not because of their training and previous school positions. While school districts all over America are demonstrating their readiness to accept alternative routes to teacher certification it is clear they are not yet ready to accept alternative routes to principal certification…even in the several states that have made the process legal.
In every failing urban district it is still typical for the school boards and superintendents to claim their highest priority is getting the very best school leaders they possibly can. They then limit their candidate pools to the same old populations of in-house people who have ostensibly been prepared by functioning as assistant principals and completing a principal’s certification program. These two criteria ensure that most of their principal appointments will yield a continuous crop of failure principals.
The principals who are most likely to succeed in failing urban school districts are currently heading community agencies, small businesses, governmental agencies, in the military and working successfully at a wide variety of jobs and careers outside of public education. Because bringing these new populations into school leadership roles is still a long term rather than a near future trend it is regretfully omitted from this analysis. The focus here is on the changes that can be made near term which will stop the miseduation of diverse children in poverty now.
Who Will Benefit from Decentralization?
The three primary benefits of decentralizing dysfunctional urban school district bureaucracies will be stopping the massive miseducation and raising the quality of the urban schools to those typical in the state; giving urban parents and communities the same level of control enjoyed throughout the state; and demonstrating that if taxpayer funds are used in responsible, accountable ways for their intended purposes that there are sufficient funds currently in the system to educate all the children in urban schools to high levels.
The common arguments against decentralization are that having all these small districts would increase the bureaucracy and the costs, that many urban parents are themselves dropouts and increasing their influence on the schools will not improve them, and that many of the special services provided by the urban schools will be lost to the children. These arguments are extremely weak and readily answered. The suburbs and major towns of our states do not devote over half of their school budgets to people who are ostensibly helping or supervising the teachers and children. If the failing urban school district is replaced by small districts which simply do not have the funds, the space, or the parental support to hire these central office functionaries then none will be hired. Neither the suburbs nor the small towns have cabinet officers, department heads or any of the other numerous functionaries who earn over $100,000 per year (plus fringe benefits) yet they have children who learn more. By making the new districts similar in size to existing school districts there will be neither the positions nor the funds to expend on an army of central office functionaries. The bureaucracy will not grow because there will be none.
The argument that urban parents cannot run their local schools is blatantly racist. The United States has over 15,300 school districts. The history and traditions under girding American education are all derived from the basic belief that local people should be in charge of their local schools in spite of the fact that many of them may have parochial goals. Some school boards outlaw the teaching of evolution but no one questions the rights of the local citizens to run their schools. Many school boards prohibit bilingual education but no one questions the right of the local citizens to run their schools. Many school boards regard the arts as frills and do not support the teaching of these subjects with taxpayer money but no one questions the legal right of the local citizens to make such a decision. Many school boards oppose the teaching of human anatomy let alone sex education but no one questions the legal right of the local citizens to make these decisions. Many school boards pass laws making it illegal for a student who has given birth to remain in school or to even return in future and no one questions the right of the local citizens to make these decisions, even when they are in violation of supreme court decisions. Many school boards pass rules banning specific books and films and no one questions the right of the local citizens to run their schools. I recently visited a school district in which the school board mandated fifteen years ago that no teacher or child could remain in any school building after 2:30 p.m. without express approval of the school board and no one questions the right of the local citizens to make such a decision. There is no end to the bizarre, inane and frequently illegal mandates, policies, regulations passed by school boards in these 15,300 districts. But when it comes to extending the same rights to minority parents and low income parents who live in cities the argument is made that these people would not be sufficiently wise to be given their rights. People of color and those in poverty should have the same rights to manage or mismanage their local schools that majority white parents and affluent parents enjoy. By decentralizing the bloated, failing districts that are miseducating their children in order to benefit the school district functionaries and other beneficiaries, urban parents will merely be gaining rights equal to those of parents and community who live in the suburbs and small towns of America. Why should urban parents have to plead for the same privileges that others simply enjoy by virtue of being able to live in a small town or suburb? The only way to ensure that the parents and children in major urban areas will have comparable education to those in the rest of their states is to stop holding diverse parents, their children and their communities hostage to dysfunctional urban school district bureaucracies.
The final argument that the bureaucrats will make against decentralization will be that many valuable services will be lost. But why should surrounding school districts (all of which have wealthier people than the city) be able to contract with the urban public schools to take their special education students rather than integrate and include these students into their own schools as the law intends they do? Why should surrounding schools (including private schools) expect the urban public schools to provide free transportation for many of their students? The answer to these and many other questions is always the same: “You have is a big district that has all these services and we are just a small district.” This statement is actually in code and is really saying: “The taxpayers in our small district have not provided funds for these services and would protest or take our jobs if we asked them for funds for these purposes, while the taxpayers in your city have no notion that they are even providing these services and couldn’t do anything about stopping them if they found out.” Suburbs of wealthy families use this small vs. big rationalization to get the poor families of the city to support services they themselves should be providing. Simply put, the small towns and suburbs use their neighboring large districts as fiscal fools. This is similar to the strategy used in my state when the state representatives of 72 counties decided that four urban counties in southeastern Wisconsin would tax themselves $800,000,000 over thirty years to pay for a baseball stadium. In an unguarded moment of honesty, rare to a politician, the former Governor of Wisconsin told citizens in northern Wisconsin, “Let’s sock it to ‘em.” The American Revolution may have been fought over taxation without representation but we had the representatives of 72 counties lay a permanent tax on only four counties!
Finally, the notion that any service provided by the public schools of a major urban district is saving money because it is done for a larger group is simply not supported by the facts. The best example of this fable are the after school reading and tutoring programs. In my city the YMCA has for decades offered after school reading tutoring that is more effective and reaches three times as many students at a small fraction of the cost of the tutoring offered by the Milwaukee Public Schools. The argument that this failed district which has miseducated over a million children and continues to miseducate over 100,000 annually should be kept intact because it offers valuable services which would not otherwise be available is untrue and misleading. It would be like looking at a town in Alabama where the Monsanto Chemical Co. has poisoned the air, the ground and the water with carcinogens that are killing the residents and saying, “Yes, but Monsanto offers day care services.” At what cost are the day care services offered and how about the local community organizations that offer more and better day care at one-third of the public school costs?
A final caveat is in order. It is reasonable and practical to conclude that the newly created decentralized districts will provide higher quality education than the single failing district within the existing budget and within the current state statutes for calculating increases to this budget. The usual argument that children in poverty need more funds, that special education students need more funds and that bilingual children need more funds are correct but in this case are unnecessary. These extra funds can all come from the funds released by discontinuing a dysfunctional bureaucracy skimming more than half (in some cases two-thirds) of its budget before allocating funds to the schools. At the same time, the state system for funding all the schools in the state is in need of rethinking and repair. Currently some districts invest twice as much as others in the schooling of their children. The property tax rate in a property poor district can be five times higher than in a property wealthy low tax district. But while the creation of a more equitable funding system for the entire state is going on there need be no delay in moving ahead to save the educational lives of those currently being miseducated. In my city the funds in the current public school system budget and the funds that would accrue annually under the existing state funding system, would be sufficient to significantly increase the quality of schooling offered all children in the newly created school districts.
Appendix A. Sample Elements to be Included in a State Statute for Decentralizing Its Urban School Districts
The legislature of the State of __(state name)_ will approve an education bill directed specifically at stopping the irreparable harm being done to children in the (city name) at great cost to themselves, their families, to the taxpayers and to the general society.
This legislation will have three goals:
1. To provide the children and youth of _(city name)_ with an education equal in quality to the schooling provided others in the State of _(state name)_.
2. To provide the parents and caregivers of _(city name)_ children a voice in controlling their schools that is comparable to the voice enjoyed by parents and community members throughout the State of _(state name)_.
3. To contain costs and ensure that the taxpayers of _(state name)_ and the city of _(city name)_ have public funds spent directly on the education of children and youth in an accountable, responsible manner.
To achieve these purposes the legislation proposed will include but not be limited to the following elements:
The administration of the schools in each of the newly created districts will be subject to the same rules and regulations as the other school districts in the State of (state name) . Each of these districts will be comparable in size to surrounding suburban and major town school districts. The essential difference will be the maintenance of the City of (name of city) as the tax base unit for funding these districts. The legislation will create a City of (name of city) School Office led by a Fiscal Manager and up to 3 FTE’s. This skeleton office will replace the current city school system which has over half of its employees who do not work directly with children in schools. The City of __(name of city) School Office will be a pass-through of funds from the state to insure that all funds go directly to schools and are not diverted for the maintenance and growth of a dysfunctional bureaucracy. Following are some of the elements which will be included in this legislation.
Organization and Governance
1. The __(name of city)__Public Schools will be discontinued as an entity responsible for the administration of public schools in the city of __(name of city)__. 2.The public schools of the _( name of city)__will be decentralized into ___X____ districts not to exceed 5,000 students in each. These districts will be limited to high schools of no more than 800 students and elementary schools (K-8) of 300 or fewer students. There will be no middle schools in these districts.
3. The __(name of city) will remain as the tax base unit for the all the newly constituted public school districts educating children in the __(name of city)__.
4. The newly created school districts will be accountable to a Fiscal Manager appointed by the Mayor of __(name of city)__ for budget purposes and directly to the State of __(name of state)__ for all educational purposes.
5. Each of the districts will have a five person school board elected by the parents and community every four years.
6. There will be no superintendents in any of these districts. The school principals in each of the districts will select a chairperson on an annual basis to serve as the administrative representative to the school board.
7. The Mayor (s) of the __(name of city)__ will appoint the Fiscal Manager for the City of (name of city)__ Public School District to oversee the use of all revenues generated from the state and local tax base as well as from federal grants awarded on a district basis. Essentially, this individual’s duties will be to ensure that all public funds intended for the education of __(name of city) students go directly and only to individual schools and not to perform any functions in support of all the schools or to any individuals not working in a specific school.
8. The Fiscal Manager of the __(name of city)__ Public School District will be an individual over 21 years of age and a legal resident of __(name of state)__.
9. Appeals regarding the Fiscal Manager’s allocation of funds to school districts will be made directly from the local school boards to the Office of the Mayor.
10. The salary of the Fiscal Manager will be limited to the salary of the highest paid teacher in any of the districts in the City of __(name of city)__ plus two additional months for summer. This would make the Fiscal Manager’s salary less than many current superintendents in suburbs and major towns and substantially less than the current salary of the urban superintendent. There will be no perks or additions of any kind which can be made to this salary.
11. The Fiscal Manager’s term will be limited to a maximum of four years. S/he will be subject to annual reviews of the Mayor.
12.The Fiscal Manager will be limited to no more than 3 FTE’s paid for with public funds. The job descriptions of these individuals will be up to the Fiscal Manager. S/he will have the discretion of contracting for services using the equivalent of these salaries.
13. Annual increases to the budget of the Fiscal Manager will be made according to all existing state laws for funding the current __(name of city)__ Public School System.
14. Because of the intense pressure on the Fiscal Manager for additional funds from the newly created school districts who have been conditioned to depend on a centralized bureaucracy, it can be anticipated that the Fiscal Manager’s annual budget is likely to request substantial increases. This legislation will make it clear that such special budget requests can never exceed 1% of the total budget for all the school districts in the City of (name of city)_.
15. All requests for exceptions or additions to the annual budget must be made by the Fiscal Manager to the Mayor or the __(name of city)__ or to the appropriate state agency overseeing funds for particular purposes.
16. The City of __(name of city)__ will audit the Fiscal Manager annually and prepare a report to the Mayor. This report will include whatever the city auditors and the Mayor deem to be appropriate but must include the following:
The amount of federal, state and private grants which the Fiscal Manager’s office has received and their dispersal to the school districts.
The annual amount behind each child in each of the newly constituted districts so that judgments about equity among the districts can be readily ascertained.
The annual amounts behind high school students vs. elementary students in each of the districts.
The funds received from all sources for exceptional education students in each of the districts.
The amounts of any grants or donations received in each of the districts.
The specific districts which overspent and under-spent their annual budgets.
17. The total budget of the Fiscal Manager for dispersal to all the districts will increase annually according to all state laws and funding formulas currently in place.
District School Boards
These boards will have all the powers and duties commonly associated with local school boards. They will be governed by all the current laws of the State of __(name of state)__. In addition to current statutes the legislation establishing the new districts will include the following modifications or emphases.
18. Each school district will have its own school board to set policy for the district. Each board will be composed of five parents, caregivers or residents of the community served by the schools in the district.
19. School board members will be elected for four year terms by vote of all residents of the community and parents/caregivers of children who attend the district schools.
20. School board members will receive $100 for attending meetings not to exceed 25 meetings in any calendar year. All other meetings or duties will be their voluntary. contributions. School Board members will not be employees of the district and will receive no health, retirement or other benefits or perks.
This includes borrowing school equipment, using school facilities for non-school purposes, using school transportation for personal reasons, or receiving any materials or equipment which the district is discarding.
21. School board members will recuse themselves from voting on any issue that involves the hiring, contracting or providing of paid services by the district to any family member, employer of a board member or a school board member’s family, or any company or agency in which the member has an interest.
22. All costs related to the school boards will be paid by the local districts. 23.School board meetings shall be subject to all the laws of the State related to open meetings, affirmative action and maintaining public access to documents and reports.
24. School boards will set their own meeting times and length of meetings. No meeting shall continue after 11:00 p.m. All meetings shall take place in a school building or other public building in the community with sufficient notice so that parents and community may attend.
25. Districts will provide school board members with a physical space that includes computers, telephones, immediate access to a copier and fax, and access of up to 20 hrs per week of clerical assistance.
26. With the exception of #25 preceding, district school boards will have no employees of their own.
27. None of the newly constituted districts will have a superintendent.
Central Office Structure
28. None of the newly constituted districts will have a central office
School Principals in the Newly Constituted Districts
29. The role of the principal will not be defined as a building manager. The role of school principals in all the districts will be defined as an administrator of a non-profit community based organization. This is to recognize the role of the school administrator as an individual who is not only an instructional leader but a leader of his/her local community. The need to relate to the diverse constituencies in the community, to raise additional funds than those that are allocated in the regular budget, to make provision for health and human services, to make provisions for after school, evening and summer programs are all critically important parts of this leadership position.
30. School principals in these newly created districts will not be required to hold administrator or teacher licenses in the State of Wisconsin.
31. School principals may be granted contracts of one to four years by their local school boards. School boards may renew contracts as frequently as they deem appropriate. 32. The salary of the elementary school principals will be the same as for high school principals.
33. The principals’ salaries will not exceed 1.1 times the highest teacher salary in his/her district plus two additional months and will be set by the school board.
34. The annual evaluation criteria of principals will be set by their school boards but must include the following criteria: achievement scores for all mandated tests; the number of students in their schools not taking the tests; attendance rates for teachers and students; annual summaries of suspensions, expulsions and dropouts; evaluations of all newly hired teachers which include achievement data of their students; an evaluation of the principal by the teachers in his/her school; and a review of the principal’s effectiveness in involving the community in the life of the school.
35. Principals’ time allowed out-of-their school districts will be limited to ten days per year if approved by the school board. Professional meetings out of the district but within the city, sick days and vacation will not be counted.
36. Support for principals attendance at professional meetings will come from the principal’s school budget and be part of his/her annual report to the school board.
37. Principals will not use any portion of their school budgets for consultants, speakers, memberships of any kind, subscriptions, or for purposes not directly related to the teaching and learning of students in their schools. Private and grant funds may be solicited for purposes deemed appropriate by the principal.
Teachers and Teacher Representation
38. Teachers in specific __(name of city)__ Public Schools who wish to continue teaching in them after decentralization will be able to do so.
39. The current salary schedule and benefits will remain in effect in the newly constituted districts.
40. New teachers and teachers who wish to transfer will be hired in each of the school districts according to procedures established in those districts and approved by their local school boards.
41. The tenure rights of veteran teachers will be continued in the newly constituted districts and extended to new teachers using the current criteria in place.
42. The salary and benefits of teachers in all the newly created districts will continue to be negotiated annually by the __(name of city)__ Teacher Education Association with the Fiscal Manager of the City of __(name of city)__ Public School District and approved by the Mayor.
43. There will be no residency requirement for teachers to live in the districts in which they teach or in the City of __(name of city)__.
44. One teachers salary schedule shall pertain to all professional staff in the schools. Guidance counselors, librarians, reading and all subject matter specialists, assistant principals, department heads, and any other professional educators employed in the district, will be covered by the same salary schedule as the classroom teachers. The concept that one is “promoted” by leaving the classroom or that those who are not responsible for teaching classes of children are higher status, or more valuable than the teachers is counterproductive and must be discontinued. 45. The salaries of school office staff, custodians and other school employees will be negotiated by representatives of their unions with the Fiscal Manager of the City of __(name of city)__ Public School District and approved by the Mayor.
Buildings and Other Physical Assets
46. As part of the decentralization process all buildings and properties of the __(name of city)__ Public Schools now housing central office people, administrators, school board members or any other employees of the district will be rebuilt as schools or sold. The Fiscal Managers recommendations will be made in the first calendar year of the decentralization process and approved by the Mayor. There will be no physical space retained that might be misconstrued as a central office.
47. Any radio stations, television channels, farms, camping sites, acreage and all other physical property including warehouses, storage facilities, and the contents thereof currently owned by the district will be retained or sold upon recommendation of the Fiscal Manager to the Mayor.
48. All transportation vehicles, repair facilities and related equipment will be sold or retained upon recommendation of the Fiscal Manager to the Mayor. 49. Upon decentralization it will be within the purview of the Fiscal Manager to recommend to the Mayor that any current asset (including copyrights) of the __(name of city)__ Public Schools be retained or sold.
The Redistricting Process
50. The panel that establishes the new districts will be appointed by the Mayor of the City of__ (name of city)__.
51. The panel will have a maximum of nine months to specify the new districts including the school buildings and physical district boundaries.
52. The initial decentralization plan will be approved by both houses of the state legislature. If disapproved the legislature will have three months to approve a substitute plan.
53. Subsequent redistricting as populations shifts occur in the city will be made upon recommendation of the Fiscal Manager to the Mayor of the City of __name of city_.
54. Failing schools will also require redistricting to maintain maximum size of districts and to provide choices for parents. The Fiscal Manager will make these recommendations to the Mayor.
Accountability for Public Education in the City of __(name of city)__.
55.The Mayor through his/her appointed Fiscal Manager will be accountable for all public funds related to schooling in the city of __(name of city)__.
56.Just as in the rest of __(name of state)__, the local school boards will be accountable for the educational programs of the newly constituted district schools.
57.Local principals will report to their local school boards through their Principal Chairperson.
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