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Finances, test scores among topics at PUSD

Original post made on Sep 30, 2010

Three months into the Pleasanton school district's fiscal year and a month into classes, and there's still little word about how much the state will actually be giving schools.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 30, 2010, 7:42 AM

Comments (38)

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 30, 2010 at 8:23 am

Stacey is a registered user.

"Heard from teachers' union president Trevor Knaggs, who talked about a growing national trend of blaming teachers for poor performance."

He couldn't have really said it that way, did he? This makes it sound like teachers play no role in student performance at all, as if the teacher didn't matter!


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Sep 30, 2010 at 8:52 am

Union president Trevor Knaggs had the perfect opportunity to praise Pleasanton teachers for their role in the excellent student achievement results that were presented and discussed. Instead he painted the teachers as victims of media oppression and unfair expectations. (see video here: Web Link) All the while never offering solutions or strategies to the challenges public education is facing.
It is hard to view teachers as victims while their unions are the largest political force in CA (CFPPC 2000-2009 $212M total campaign spending) and nationally (see any reports on NEA/AFT).
Mr. Knaggs closed his speech with a pithy remark about '...waiting for textbooks and the return of arts, music and PE classes' while knowing full well that he represents the reason why educational opportunities for Pleasanton students continues to be cut.
Mr. Knaggs needs to stop his hypocrisy, stop playing the 'victim' and stop waiting.


Posted by District observer, a resident of Mohr Park
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

Trevor Knaggs stated at the board meeting that the union does not support poor performing teachers. But he also pointed out that many factors besides a teacher can influence a student's performance. We all know this, but lately the trend is to just blame teachers.

Such factors include family support, social-economic status, whether a student lives in a safe neighborhood and can focus on homework, or comes to school having eaten breakfast, or gets enough sleep at night, and whether a school has enough funding for after-school and intervention programs to help under-performing and at-risk students.

Knaggs' point--though he didn't say it quite like this--is that it takes a village to raise a child.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:18 am

Stacey is a registered user.

I agree, there are other factors that can influence performance and I think many are willing to acknowledge that. But doesn't it seem like a red herring? Which factor has the greatest influence? A great teacher is in a position to overcome many of those other factors.

The national dialog is, of course, overly simplistic and, as you say, a trend. We can look at it as capturing the zeitgeist of society's disappointment with the American educational system. Americans are feeling let down by a whole variety of systems that have not done what they advertise. They're reacting to the failures, naturally, and showing their fears for a future where America is no longer on top.

I expected the union to ask for furlough days back with the Federal money and I think that's actually ok to give one or two days back because that's the purpose of the money; it's job money. The district should also look at funding the intervention specialists using that money. Let's see what California does with the budget first though. We may need that Federal money to save jobs.


Posted by Nomad, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:25 am

And by 'waiting' for everyone else and playing 'victim', union president Knaggs is admitting he is NOT part of the village.


Posted by Had enough, a resident of Foothill High School
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:35 am

Self-serving unions that shrink away from accountability? Now that is a surprise ;-) When is the last time the union allowed the expeditious dismissal of a poorly performing teacher? Instead, their actions force the lay off of younger, more motivated teachers to make room for down-sized senior administrators. Speak with your kids who are unlucky enough to have one of these poor administrator/teachers. They are a joke and our children are suffering for it.

This is one of many reasons why I refuse to vote for any more parcel tax increases or donate any more money to Pleasanton schools (unless it is for a specific activity my children benefit from).

It is time for unions to begin sacrificing (beyond the ridiculous paltry token last year) and step up to accountability.


Posted by Nomad, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:45 am

Instead of 'waiting' for everyone else......
How about the Association of Pleasanton Teachers show true leadership and innovation and start a program where they evaluate themselves and remove the bottom 5% performing teachers every year. To the extent they would have a transparent evaluation process and include student/parent participation would only increase the value of such program. A model for the state and for the nation.
I'll bet Oprah would invite Mr. Knaggs on her program instead of promoting 'Waiting for Superman'.
One could only hope APT could rise to the occasion and opportunity.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:52 am

Stacey is a registered user.

It would be nice to see a move towards collaborating on a new and meaningful evaluation system that is beneficial towards the whole, however that would look. It's gotta be better than the silly system we have now in California that is nothing more than tokens. I've posted different models here in the past that could also serve as alternatives to the seniority-based layoffs. Society is changing yet again.


Posted by observation, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 2:53 pm

"Union president Trevor Knaggs had the perfect opportunity to praise Pleasanton teachers for their role in the excellent student achievement results that were presented and discussed."

Agree. "The board also heard a report about its Academic Performance Index (API), Advanced Placement (AP) tests, Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) scores. In general, the district is doing well; with scores above average and improving every year."

"How about the Association of Pleasanton Teachers show true leadership and innovation and start a program where they evaluate themselves and remove the bottom 5% performing teachers every year. "

I don't think that is anywhere near a top priority in Pleasanton.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Sep 30, 2010 at 8:10 pm

To 'observation' - Union president Knaggs has been whining about the 'unfair' teacher evaluation proposals for months now. It must be a priority for him and the union/teachers. But I don't see him participating in the solution process. Maybe it is time for Mr. Knaggs to put up or shut up. The administration of the schools my kids attended knew which teachers we thought were an abomination to the teaching profession. Most of them are still there producing the same poor results. An APT self-evaluation process is a great idea.
What is your top priority for improving the overall quality of Pleasanton teachers?


Posted by observation, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:43 pm

"What is your top priority for improving the overall quality of Pleasanton teachers?"

Oh, I agree that is a high priority to identify and correct teachers who are not performing -- including firing very bad performers. I also like the idea of some kind of bonus pay for math and science teachers in short supply. Finding ways of attracting and retaining talented teachers. I was thinking more about the overall management of the schools system. There are many issues that could be addressed regarding spending and funding.


Posted by Atticus, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Dark Corners,

I'm not sure if you realize it, but you're exactly what people have in mind when they say the community takes every opportunity to bash teachers in Pleasanton. Don't believe me? Read just the posts you've written here. Nasty. Brutish. Belittling.

Why don't you get involved in doing something positive in the community if it's so awful? Do you really feel, deep down, that your daily injections of venom into the community discourse poisons the bloodstream of our city?

Please take a break from the forum. Get involved. Make a difference, like our teachers do.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 1, 2010 at 5:23 am

I am involved in our great community and education system and want it continually improved.
Now, do you want to discuss the issues Mr. Knaggs raises in his remarks to our school board or veer into personal attacks about my passion for doing what is best for our kids?


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Negative, DCOT! I almost spit out my coffee when I read your last line. During the last round of discussions on Measure G, you were ALL FOR increasing class sizes, laying off staff, cutting educational programs.

Don't kid yourself: it isn't the children who are in your best interests.


Posted by Atticus, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Oct 2, 2010 at 7:51 am

Dark Corners,

Saying you're involved in education in Pleasanton is like a meth dealer saying he's involved in law enforcement. Your arguments are not reasoned or measured, they're intended to harm. Why else would you describe Trevor Knaggs' speech as 'whining' and call educators 'an abomination?'

There's a name for what you do and it's called cyber-bullying. I don't know what drives you to try to attack the people who have dedicated their lives to teaching our children, but it must stop. The overwhelming majority in this town is looking for real solutions that embrace and include our excellent educators. Your level of discourse debases the community and goodwill of Pleasanton, and I think its time more people on this forum spoke out against the divisiveness and nastiness of the few chronic bullies here.

Who's with me, Pleasanton? Can we take back the forum for our community of character?


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 2, 2010 at 9:37 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Atticus,

For the benefit of all readers, do you agree with the idea of identifying which teachers are continuously ineffective? Do you agree with the idea of dealing with continuously ineffective teachers in a manner that minimizes their harm to a student's education, even if they've dedicated their lives to the profession? At which point would you say that the person should find a different profession?

I think we should be more honest. Those who are truly dedicated to their professions continuously seek to improve their skills and analyze what they could do better next time. To do that they usually need useful feedback and other data. Those people typically end up improving and becoming great. If there's a teacher who is _continously_ ineffective, society has every right to ask why, personal feelings aside.


Posted by Atticus, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Oct 2, 2010 at 10:23 am

Stacey,

No, I do not agree with publicly identifying which teachers are continuously ineffective. I believe there should be an internal mechanism within the education system that does that.

Teachers, unlike elected officials, have all the privacy protections of any other American citizen. They should not be subject to public scrutiny the way, for example, a candidate for the Senate or a potential governor should. Think of it this way: Would you like YOUR performance reviews to be posted on a public forum?

It's nice to think that firing an arbitrary number of teachers each year--say 5%, which was suggested earlier--would improve education, but the reality would be much, much different. To begin with, if only 2 percent of teachers were ineffective, that would mean 3% of effective teachers would lose their jobs. Such a system--or indeed, any system that publicly identified the poorest performers--would lower the standard of education of all in two very important ways: first, real innovators and talented individuals will be driven away from teaching. Why earn half of what you could in the private sector if this is how the community treats and views teachers? We need to encourage talent in education, not discourage it with draconian measures.

Second, the natural result of such a system would be for teachers to homogenize their teaching and testing. Eventually, teachers would decide, as a defense against an arbitrary firing scheme, to teach exactly the same way on exactly the same day, giving identical assignments, having identical activitities, etc. Why would this be bad? Because teachers don't have identical students, identical talents, identical skill sets, etc. What's that, Johnny? We're progressing too fast? Sorry, I'd love to help, but I can't risk deviating from what everyone else is doing. Yes, Susie? The writing doesn't challenge your higher skill set? Sorry, our assembly-line approach only teaches to the middle. I'm sure your test scores will be acceptable anyway.

Simplistic solutions are not what is needed. More community involvement (in a positive way), more parental accountability, and a tone of mutual respect and a shared vision of success in education would be a start.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I still find it hard to believe that the biggest problem in Pleasanton schools is bad teachers. We must be talking that almost half of them need to be fired based on the posts here. I'm sure there are a few, but I have never personally spoke to anyone who has had a really bad teacher. I've seen posts on here and do not doubt they are true, but I do doubt that there is a systemic problem with awful teachers in our schools.

If you have actual information otherwise, please provide.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 2, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Atticus,

OK, I didn't really specify publicly or privately as I was thinking about the act of identification/evaluation alone. So you seem to agree that there should be some mechanism which identifies continuously ineffective teachers. Supposedly there is one, but I think you and I can agree that the current California system is a joke, for the reasons that it doesn't really get rid of the continuously ineffective teachers nor does it really assist the good ones to get better. It's similar to the Catholic Church's practice of moving "funny" priests to different parishes. The general public sees the end result of that system and I think that's where the anger comes from, where the demand for more public disclosure and transparency comes from, whether right or wrong.

I can't necessarily agree with DCoT in saying that the bottom 5% annually should go as I don't have enough information to determine if that's a good idea or not. Let's return to my earlier question, at which point would you say that the continuously ineffective teacher should be let go/find a different profession? I think the answer to my question would provide a much better basis for determining who to let go, whether that's 5% one year and 2% another year.

The issue of homogenization, I would argue, already happens under the current educational system. That's some other discussion though.


Posted by Atticus, a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Oct 4, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Stacey,

I'm sorry, but no, we don't agree that the current California system is a joke. Pleasanton is an excellent example to the contrary. I think many individual districts are a joke, and that, judging by the numbers, few people involved in education have the support, encouragement, or backbone (probably a combo) they need to make it really work. This is a human failure, not a system failure. The reason education is and will always be a controversial topic is because of human flaws, not in educational theories. If we keep wasting our energy continuously reinventing education, we'll never be able to see that we've ignored the real solution all along.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 4, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Interesting that you still haven't addressed my question about what you think is the point at which a teacher should be shown the door.


Posted by Atticus, a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Oct 4, 2010 at 7:30 pm

I guess that, since I'm not an administrator in our education system, I don't feel that my opinion is informed enough to make that call.

Why are you so gung ho to get people to talk about firing teachers, anyway? And do you have insider information about the evaluation process or teacher's personnel files to speak with any authority on this subject, while I'm asking?


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 4, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Atticus,

Way up above DCoT wrote: "The administration of the schools my kids attended knew which teachers we thought were an abomination to the teaching profession. Most of them are still there producing the same poor results. An APT self-evaluation process is a great idea."

Then you wrote that DCoT called educators "an abomination". I disagree with that because DCoT was addressing specific educators, not educators as a whole. So I thought to solicit your input on the subject of what to do with specific educators, teachers that have been identified as continuously ineffective.


Posted by maybe, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:24 pm

"The administration of the schools my kids attended knew which teachers we thought were an abomination to the teaching profession."

When I was growing up, I saw exactly these kinds of statements from parents who objected to their children being taught about evolution. When a student submitted a biology paper extolling biblical scientific creationism over evolution and got a bad grade, parents complained.

What I'm asking is how does parent know "The administration" had that opinion?


Posted by Atticus, a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:28 pm

@maybe: You don't think it's plausible that site administration told a parent that the faculty was "an abomination?"

I don't think it's plausible either, really. Seems more like that's Dark Corners' spin.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

It leads into looking at the evaluation system being used to make those determinations. If the evaluation system relies upon an administrator popping in one day out of the whole year or one day every other year or even one day every five years to view a teacher teaching in the classroom, there's not much useful data to be extracted. Hence, the system is a big joke. It does nothing to address parental concerns nor help teachers get useful feedback for identifying areas in which they have room to improve.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:41 pm

To 'Anonymous' - Sadly, you are mistaken.
(Web Link)


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:45 pm

To 'Atticus' - What was the response to your call "Who's with me, Pleasanton?"


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Stacey - I was about to post something very similar.

For those who want to compare private business with schools lets look at the hierarchy. In business it recommended that a manager/supervisor have (depending on the job type) 5-6 reports or at max 15-20.

So at our high schools there are over 100 teachers and 4 administrators. Which means at first the ratio is about 25 to 1.Except that the the administrators job extend well beyond supervision and seeing that the teachers are performing. Their primary functions are dealing with campus activities, behavioral issues, mandatory student meeting, parent complaints.

If we really want a valid evaluation system there needs to be a fundamental change. Tests scores are extremely difficult to rate teachers and in some areas impossible. Some schools are doing it in which they have a board of teachers to that do regular evaluation of other teachers. There could be other method, but all of these would be a drastic change and certainly have a financial cost. I'm not sure the teachers would be to excited to give up pay so more of them could be fired. And I know that Pleasanton would not support more money for the schools, so that leaves us where we are, which isn't that bad of a place as far as I can see, but it appears many of you have a much different view of the schools then I.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 4, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I heard about this idea of a maximum of 6 recently. Gosh, where did I see that? Ah, here: Web Link Read the first comment.


Posted by Get Educated, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm

"It leads into looking at the evaluation system being used to make those determinations. If the evaluation system relies upon an administrator popping in one day out of the whole year or one day every other year or even one day every five years to view a teacher teaching in the classroom, there's not much useful data to be extracted."

Stacey- if this were the case in PUSD, then I agree, it would be a joke. This is not the evaluation process that I am a part of at the elementary level. DCOT has now chosen to attack Trevor, when anyone wanting this process to be improved should be speaking with the administrators at their school site. It is their responsibility and their job to correctly evaluate teachers at their site.


Posted by Atticus, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Oct 7, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Get Educated: you nailed it. DCOT is NOT interested in real improvements, she's really only interested in poisoning the goodwill of the community and attacking educators.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 8, 2010 at 9:35 am

And I thought dissent was patriotic.
Let's see what Mr. Knaggs has to say (and *not* say) at the next school board meeting.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Get Educated,

I can't evaluate very well how PUSD does it since the latest certificated contract is not to be found on the website. Look here for the last one: Web Link What I described above is roughly what is described in there. There's observation by an administrator that must occur, which creates a management issue because, as pointed out above, there's many employees and few administrators. I imagine since not everyone gets evaluated annually, that problem is not so bad, but why should employees not be evaluated annually? I noticed that the contract specifies that no unit member may evaluate another unit member. So any sort of peer review would be prohibited. There's also a statement with regards to the purpose of evaluation and nothing about linking evaluations to employment status exists. That leads back to my earlier question about at which point are the "non-performing" employees to be shown the door?


Posted by Get Educated, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2010 at 1:48 am

The link you posted is the document that explains the evaluation process. It is a new updated policy that began in 2005 and is very specific. Starting on page 4-39 it gives answers to your questions. Partner/peer options do play a role in the evaluation process, annual reviews/meetings are required, and there is a very specific process for underperforming teachers.

I hear you really driving to get to the point of firing underperforming educators, which is possible regardless of tenure, but it is up to the site administrator to follow through and take care of this. You are right that as administration has been decreased by such drastic numbers, with the lack of time, this has become a new issue. Administrators are responsible for the business aspects of running the school, the staff, the curriculum, testing, the parent community, and most important- the students (including discipline which honestly can completely derail an entire day depending on issues that arise) plus much more.

Those who said that we have too many administrators have no idea the struggle that we are now facing daily with the lack of help, and how that trickles down to other issues they are now taking up with PUSD. The millions that have been cut are felt every day in our schools.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm

"Let's see what Mr. Knaggs has to say (and *not* say) at the next school board meeting."
View the board meeting here: (Web Link)
Mr. Knaggs says (regarding his request for the new federal funds to be used to bring back furlough days) "The fact is that members were promised that if any new money became available to the district, that we would seek to buy back those days."
Here's what he didn't say:
- Who made the promise? Since there is no mention of it in the one year MOU, was this promise written into a different agreement? Was it a verbal promise between the school board and the union?
- Was this just a promise between Mr. Knaggs and his union members? And so he's just making sure that teachers salaries come first and kids programs and services come second?

Regarding teacher evaluations, when reading the MOU looking for the 'promise', there is a line item for "extending the formal evaluation cycle for veteran teachers (permanent with 10+ years) to five (5) years." This means that the school board and unions agreed to lengthen the time between evaluations so that 5 years (!) elapses between evaluations. So regardless of what due process exists, teachers get evaluated every 5 years and ineffective teachers are hanging around. What was the purpose of putting this in the MOU? Make everyone's job easier? Would it not have been wiser to shorten the evaluation cycle to insure that the community has the best teachers for it's kids?


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm

And the other union rep who referred to our teachers as 'Customer Service Reps' was a hoot.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Here's a set of ideas from The Atlantic (Web Link)

One of the ideas is:

"The first set revolves around labor mobility. Work environments hospitable to continual innovation tend to have relatively low barriers to entry, and relatively low barriers to exit. Schools invert that. Many have extensive up-front credentialing requirements, forcing novice teachers to invest substantial time and money at the beginning of their careers, before they can even decide whether they are indeed well-suited for the job. Early career teachers tend to get the least desirable assignments, and to be paid barely enough on which to live. On the other hand, most compensation packages are grossly back-loaded, offering lock-step seniority raises and substantial retirement benefits. So it's tough to get in the door, and once you do, leaving entails abandoning the rewards for which you've already labored before you can enjoy them. That's crazy.

I'd like to see an entirely new arrangement. Get rid of pensions, retiree health plans, and other benefits that incentivize workers to stick it out. Use the savings to raise early-career salaries to more competitive levels, and to institute generous 401(k) matches. This would, in one fell swoop, make it easier to attract new talent, and easier for those dissatisfied in their schools, their districts, or their careers to seek greener pastures."


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