June 3, 2014

Educators 4 Excellence-Los Angeles launches a bold proposal for the evolution of teacher compensation and investment in school climate

Teachers, Joined by Superintendent Deasy, School Board Members Garcia and Zimmer, Call for Policy Shift at E4E Event

Amid Shrinking Enrollment in LAUSD, Teacher Recommendations Urge Policy Makers to “Pay it Forward” by Investing in Teacher and Student Retention

June 3, 2014 (Los Angeles) — Educators 4 Excellence-Los Angeles, a teacher-led organization that seeks to elevate the voices of teachers in policy discussions, called for bolder investments in teacher retention and school climate. The recommendations address a confluence of two seismic challenges facing our district and state: the disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion among boys of color and the need to attract and retain top talent to teach in hard-to-staff areas. The full recommendations can be viewed at http://www.educators4excellence.org/payitforwardla.

In an event this evening, two groups of public school teachers, the E4E-LA 2014 Teacher Policy Teams, released policy papers on changes to the school climate and differentiated compensation structures. These prescriptions were developed by a diverse group of 26 teachers who volunteered months of their time and leveraged their unique classroom experiences to tackle the problems of an antiquated compensation system and punitive school climate. Their policy recommendations are informed by robust research on local and national compensation and school climate initiatives as well as surveys conducted with teachers and their students.

This teacher developed report on school climate calls for investments in:

  • Data sharing and action plans. While the passage of LAUSD’s School Climate Bill of Rights was an important first step, teachers authoring this proposal urge the state, districts and schools to support school climate improvements by sharing user-friendly data and requiring school-created action plans for addressing problematic data trends.
  • Restorative justice. To truly change punitive-based models of education, the E4E Teacher Policy Team calls for investments in restorative justice programs that identify trends in school culture, address the root causes of individual behavioral and reinforce positive behaviors in our schools.
  • Culturally responsive pedagogy. Given the rich diversity of California’s schools, this teacher-developed proposal encourages districts to invest in training to help educators be more reflective practitioners and create classrooms that utilize cultural histories, contexts and content to make education more relevant and responsive to students.
  • School climate leadership roles. In their white paper, teachers advocate for investing in teacher leadership and career pathways focused on improving school climate. With these investments in teacher leadership, districts can build the capacity, buy-in and expertise needed to execute school climate reforms.

The report on differentiated compensation calls for investments in:

  • Talent pipelines for hard-to-staff teaching positions. Teaching positions with the highest teacher vacancy and turnover rates need consistent and talented staff to improve outcomes. The report calls on districts to invest additional compensation—coupled with an investment in mentorship and tailored support—to attract, empower and keep effective teachers at these schools.
  • Professional development rooted in specific student and school needs. The current compensation system does not encourage teachers to identify and pursue professional development that is tailored to the specific needs of their students and school. Under this proposal, teachers seek a new mastery-based system that would encourage teachers to focus on areas of greatest need, and reward them for demonstrated mastery and impact.
  • Provide bonuses for critically needed leadership roles. Teacher leadership roles, which are rare in our schools, often fail to offer teachers clear job descriptions, support, accountability and additional compensation. Teachers encourage districts to formalize leadership roles for teachers by providing clear job responsibilities, support structures, accountability and additional compensation.

“The teachers who authored this paper reject the notion that the challenges facing our schools are too messy or too political to solve. They see our state’s looming teacher shortage crisis as an opportunity to evolve the way we train, compensate and retain talent. They see low graduation rates among boys of color as a wakeup call for improving school climates for all students,” said Ama Nyamekye, the Executive Director of E4E-LA and former educator who worked in both public schools and prisons.

Angela Campbell, a teacher who served on the compensation policy team, explained her motivation, saying “I’ve been a teacher for 19 years, and felt great about being a teacher but my path wasn’t so inspiring…we want to incentivize and value teachers as they grow over their careers.”

The two reports are united through the theme of “paying it forward,” and the idea that investing in changes to evolve teacher compensation and improve school climate will lead to greater staff stability, healthier school campuses and better results for students in the future.

“The youth of this district are very lucky to have you,” said Dr. John Deasy, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, adding that the thinking the policy teams are doing is “spot on.” Dr. Deasy drew a comparison between the work of the E4E Teacher Policy Teams and past education issues, saying, “Think about Plessy v. Ferguson. The justice who wrote the dissenting opinion in Plessy said the thin veil to justify separate but equal would never hold up, but 7 to 1 [voted for it]. That stood until Brown v. Board of Education...never underestimate that minority thinking can prevail.” 

“I am so pleased to celebrate your work,” said LAUSD School Board member Monica Garcia. “We have amazing teachers who come to work every day. I want to encourage you to keep growing the strength of teachers so that more kids believe in themselves. ”

“Thank you for the work you have done and will do,” LAUSD School Board member Steve Zimmer said, addressing the 26 teachers of the policy team. “It is easy to talk about equality of opportunity, but the conversation is harder when we talk about equality of outcomes. There comes a time when we have to say it doesn’t matter if people aren’t ready for conversations about equality of outcomes.”

Steven Almazan, a teacher from the School Climate Teacher Policy Team, enunciated some of the goals of their paper. “As a teacher, school climate is one of the most important factors in my classroom. Schools need to be loving and caring environments. If the 2012 LA School Climate Bill of Rights is the torso, our recommendations are the arms and legs that help it move.”

“Both of these issues, compensation and school climate, present an opportunity to implement changes that will build a stronger profession and schools for the future,” added Nyamekye. “The ideas in these proposals come from teachers working on the frontlines of public education. As our district and union leadership prepare for upcoming contractual negotiations, we hope they bring these teacher voices to the negotiating table along with the vision and political will to seize this moment to shift the status quo and do better by our students and teachers.”