By Greg Sampson
JPEF One X One Conference: Breakout Sessions
5: Getting Young Children Ready for School; Developing, Retaining and
Empowering Great Teachers; Preparing Students for Success After High School;
Social-Emotional Learning and Discipline Policies; and Testing &
interested in 3 of them but could only go to 2: the second about great
teachers, which I figured was about professional development; the SEL and
discipline; and the testing sessions.
First I went
to the Social-Emotional Learning Session. I was disappointed that they didn’t
offer any knowledge or assistance. They spent the time explaining what they did
and where they did it. While schools need to attend to the social and emotional
needs of children, I found their presentation was more of a sales pitch than a
sharing of professional knowledge.
tight on time. (More on that in my analysis post.) I allowed others to speak in
the brief 7 minutes we were allowed a table discussion. When it ended, the
volunteer at my table invited me to add my comments, which she would write down
(dutifully?) on the Post-It Chart as she assured me the conference organizers
would review all feedback given.
I said I
needed at least 20 minutes to respond but I did say that the district had
secured a grant to place a social worker and counselor in every middle school
this year to attend to these needs of our students. I also took the opportunity
to provide other feedback about the state accountability system—broken and
needs to be recreated from the ground up and how teachers faced pressure to
keep on the curriculum guides even when they realized the needs of students
meant they needed to stop and take care of their students’ needs.
words, teachers can’t keep up with the pace demanded by district curriculum
guides and if they addressed the needs in their classroom on any given day,
that’s one more day they fall behind while facing pressure for catching up.
Then I went to
the session on teacher quality, advertised on how to retain effective teachers.
during the AM table share-out, we were asked to say one thing we had learned. I
made something up because I didn’t learn anything new in the AM (I do keep up),
but the TNTP presentation … WOW. I learned how deeply TNTP has burrowed into
this district and their mission philosophy has been adopted by the
begin, let me say that TNTP began as “The New Teachers Project.” For whatever
reasons that made sense to them, they abandoned the words but retained the
acronym as their brand. They are trying to create a new type of teacher, but
don’t want anyone to know? Hmmmmm … maybe we can go by the first three
letters—they are trying to blow up the teaching profession and to quote Harold
Hill, they end with P and that rhymes with T and that stands for Trouble for
of TNTP as shared: ending the injustice of educational inequity by providing
excellent teachers to students who need them most. That’s my paraphrasing from my notes and I
tried to Google them to give you their exact wording, but somehow that’s not
their mission, TNTP has 3 focuses (foci for my Latin teacher with whom I enjoy
lunchroom conversations most days): rigorous academics, talented people,
DCPS work, it is number two that they are focused on. (Yes, I get the double
presentation trotted out the quoted-so-often-it’s-become-a-cliché mantra that the
quality of the teacher is the number one factor in student learning. Then they
described their work with the district.
One: Supply DCPS with strong, new teachers. That means helping DCPS hire better
teachers than they have done in the past. The Big Idea that they shared was
that the earlier a teacher was hired, the better the new teacher quality tended
to be. “The best people, they want to know where they are going before
graduation. You (DCPS) used to hire teachers in July. All the best candidates
are gone by then. If you are a top college student, wouldn’t you find a job
before you graduated? That’s how the charters get the best people. They recruit
in November of the senior college year. We helped DCPS by getting you to go
after them earlier in the year.” Also, “DTO gets first choice. They are allowed
to recruit before other schools. That’s how DCPS is getting the best in front
of the greatest need.” “The earlier the hire, the higher the quality and we
have data to back that up.”
I admire how these people can keep a straight face. Now understand that this
was my second breakout, and when I arrived, the people were too busy taking
selfies with one another to get the second presentation underway. I had to ask
someone if I was in the right place. They started 15 minutes late and were
totally unconcerned about what they were supposed to do. When they cut their
presentation off at the designated time, that they were not finished did not
TNTP, for telling us that we did not matter.
Two: Grow all teachers.
cliché. I will spare you the tedium.
Three: Help schools keep their top teachers.
retention is a big issue.”
“It is not a
failure to retain teachers; it is the failure to retain the right teachers. Do
we really want to keep the teachers who aren’t great?”
presented nine strategies to retain great teachers that would not cost extra
dollars. (So shut up, audience member, who offered the feedback that more money
for teachers would keep the best teachers from leaving Duval County for other
places that paid more.)
percentage of low-performing teachers remain in the classroom.”
ask: do they have the will or the skill to improve?”
“It takes 11
hires to find another great teacher to replace one who left.”
with districts so they can identify among their applicants what teachers will
career teachers who will take a leave of absence from their
chosen path to spend 5 or 10 years in a classroom is a great idea. Research has
shown that such people produce learning gains over the College of Ed lifelong
Let me make
it clear. TNTP is driving district policy over the hiring and support of
teachers. First, they think that great teachers are born, not made. They think
our classrooms are filled with people punching a time clock that don’t give a
hoot about their students. They whisper in the ears of our superintendent and
his cabinet that if only, if ONLY, they could get the right people, the wicked
Witch of the West would be melted, her sister long ago buried under a house,
and the flying monkeys sent off to wherever. All would be right in Munchkin
live in Realville. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you want
great teachers, you have to develop them. That takes a commitment to authentic
professional development that this District refuses to adopt.
a whole ‘nother post.)