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Sutherland for Schools blog

Traditional vs. Teach For America retention rates

by Ann Sutherland on 05/24/16

Some of you already know that I voted against the $1 million for TFA ($8000 per teacher for 25 teachers per year for 5 years. My main issue is that they never have crucial real classroom experience (they go to a 5-week "training" but no real classroom responsibility, but there is also a significant issue on retention.  

Here is the real poop on how long they stay:

5 years:  traditional, 48%; TFA 8%
4 years:  traditional: 56%; TFA 17%
3 years:  traditional: 66%; TFA 43%
2 year:   traditional : 79%; TFA 91%  (TFA teachers sign 2 year contracts)

Over 5 years, we have to hire 40% fewer teachers, over 4, 39% and over 3 years 22%.  Based on these numbers we could save a lot of HCM time by hiring from traditional sources.  
Note:  In 2014-5, we hired 1033 new teachers; this year, 900.  The hiring job is harder because of TFA.

Psst! The CIA blog is hopping this week

by Ann Sutherland on 05/20/16

The last two weeks feature a lot of bad behavior and some of it is appearing on the CIA blog  (  The latest post is about the Arlington Heights High School prom night, when six baseball players and two cheerleaders, obviously inebriated, were allowed into the dance.  The comments are illuminating.  Apparently the AHHS staff let them in and very little was done in the way of punishment of the kids.  

The same thing happened several years ago, leading to a $2.4 million judgment against the school district when the AP refused to let the kids into the dance and was subsequent fired for this and for whistleblowing about attendance fraud and other issues.   AHHS kids appear to be treated differently depending on their ethnicity.  It reminds me of the sixties' blues song,

"If you're white, all right
 If you're brown, stick around
 But if you're black,
Get back, get back, get back get back"

NEW COPIERS! Agenda and Board book available online

by Ann Sutherland on 05/20/16

Yes!  New copiers for school sites are on the board agenda!  Staff put them on the agenda a year ahead of their scheduled replacement due to your many comments.  All of you who complained over and over can "take a bow".

In our budget presentation I will be proposing (a) more substitute money, (b) "tier 1 classrooms" for students who repeatedly misbehave, and several other site-based concerns. 

Also, we will be approving the appointment of Chief Academic Officer and Chief of Human Capital Management.  Dr. Sorum is retiring at the end of this year and Chief Monge is moving to a new unit. 

We will vote on new school board officers at the very end of the meeting.

Tuesday's agenda and board book are available at the INFORMATION apple on my home page.  
The board will be once again discussing the transgender policy behind closed doors.  We are holding community meetings 

OCR transgender letter FYI

by Ann Sutherland on 05/14/16

Here is the letter from the US Office of Civil Rights on transgender students.

I am guessing (just guessing!) that we will conform the FWISD policy to this document. 

Update on transgender: After President Obama's letter

by Ann Sutherland on 05/13/16

Readers, your comments are helpful to me.  I am concerned about the split in our community and am working with others on this.  In a few days I will blog again about it after some more thought and consultation.

Revised#2 Plans for the new transgender regulation

by Ann Sutherland on 05/10/16

Well, I was wrong.  Superintenedt Scribner said nothing in response to my request, proper under board policy, that we discuss this administrative regulation some time in near future and vote on it.  President Ramos merely said he received the request but did not agree to put it on the agenda. Until I get a written agreement to place the item back on the agenda, there is no point in having another meeting.

It was asserted last night that this policy was enacted in 2011.  I invite you to look at this policy (FFH local) and make up your own minds.  

The existing policy is at

However, this version is the 2014 version; the original 2011 version is not available.

Here is the link to the revision Superintendent Scribner approved in April:

District replaces 60 staff with contract staff from CA company

by Ann Sutherland on 05/04/16

It's continuing, and the board doesn't know about this.  In response to a recent question from one of you, Dr. Sorum responded about the DII coaches:
With respect to the DII coaches,

The blogger is correct that the positions of network specialists have been eliminated.  Network specialists provided support in the four tested content areas.  There were approximately 15 per content area—for the total of sixty.  These individuals were responsible for providing support for all schools, all grade levels (some elementary, some secondary), in their tested content area.

The DII model is different. The philosophy of DII is not one in which the DII coach is responsible for building a teacher’s content knowledge or supporting a specific content area. The DII model addresses expectations for quality instruction in all content areas and all grades. The model honors the role of the teacher as the individual responsible for knowing his or her content area and focuses rather on how the teacher is planning, delivering, and evaluating instruction while ensuring that the students are active participants in each lesson.

DII is not a model that I have worked with in the past, but I have been very impressed by the depth of the research behind the model and with the fact that the importance of the relationship between the teacher and student is an essential part of learning.

Knowing that we are having some schools that are struggling more than others, Dr. Scribner’s leadership team decided to concentrate initial resources in the most struggling schools.  As Dr. Scribner states periodically, “Sending the firefighters to the fire.” As you know, many of our schools do very, very well and require little or no intervention or support from central office.  However, this is not the case with all schools.  This first cohort of coaches will be working with approximately 50 schools that have been identified as those in highest need.  Initial thinking has been to expand the cohort to the next third of schools in each of the two subsequent years.

If you have any more specific questions about DII, Dr. Salato would be more than happy to discuss them in depth.  She is much more qualified than I to do this.

Becky Salato, Ed.D.
Chief Operating Officer
Action Learning Systems, Inc.
135 Rosemead Blvd.
Pasadena, CA  91107
Office: 626.744.5344
Cell:      951.453.9563

Know your discipline laws #2

by Ann Sutherland on 05/02/16

Texas education code [G] [Sec.37.002(a), (b) and (c)] allows teachers to remove students from the classroom.

If the reason the student is removed is one of these two reasons:
--"who has been documented by the teacher to repeatedly interfere with the teacer's ability to communicate effectively with the students in the class or with the ability of the student's classmates to learn",
--if it "seriously interfers with the teacher's ability to communicate effectively with the students in the class or with the ability of the student's classmates to learn"  . . . 
then Sec. 37.002(c)  prohibits principals to return the student to the classroom without the teacher's consent unless ordered a committee action (specified in 37.003) establishes that the placement is in the best or only alternative available.

Know your discipline laws #1

by Ann Sutherland on 05/02/16

Here begins a series of comments and information which relate to discipline.

Students cannot threaten, touch or cause bodily injury to a teacher (Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 1:  A person commits an offense if the person:
-- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another . . .
--intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury . . . or
--intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believed that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

Chapter 1(b):  If the offense is committed against a person the actor knows is a public servant while the public servant is lawfully discharging an official duty (like teaching or managing kid), or in retaliation or on account of an exercise of official power or performance of an official duty as a public servant, the offense is a 3rd degree felony.

2% wage proposal is a lot more for the 1% at the top.

by Ann Sutherland on 04/29/16

The 2% raise proposed by FWISD may sound good at first blush, but there are extra sweets for those at the top.  Following the $2.03 million in annual raises given to  everyone but teachers via the notorious TASB wage "study", FWISD staff has proposed the same sweetener by adding extra money to all staff whose salaries fall below their salary classification's midpoint. 
This was sufficient to confuse me in 2013 but no more.  UEA's Steven Poole took the time to examine how well each of us whose salary lies below the midpoint would fare under this proposal.  The resulting salary increases won't surprise you:
Deputy Superintendent $4,000
Asst. Superintendent     $3,400
Chiefs                            $2,800
Teachers                        $1300
Teacher aides                $  400
This is how FWISD proposes to distribute our district's income among our 11,000 individuals, mirroring the national trend over the last 30 years.
This has the effect of making the richest richer, as we have witnessed happening nationally over the last thirty years.
  (income quintiles removed)

A cry from the heart

by Ann Sutherland on 04/26/16

This is the saddest comment I have ever read in my life.  We have definitely gone over to the "dark side."  Charter schools, anyone?
What is a teacher to do when managing the behavior of a child with diagnosed    
mental illness?  After months of requests with no suggestions to be told this   
late in the year that it is my fault the child misbehaves....and that I need to 
build "rapport".  If I had "rapport" this would not be      
occurring.  This recommendation came MONTHS after he was observed.  Then I am   
told by the counseling staff they do NOT want behavioral updates and would NOT  
be assisting him anymore. All the teachers that have this child want to         
cry....for him because he is so unhappy....for the other kids because he        
impedes their learning.

April 26 Agenda is posted

by Ann Sutherland on 04/23/16

Tuesday's agenda will include
--the first draft of a proposal to establish a committee to provide wrap-around health and wellness cities in coordination with several local agencies;
--a proposal to include transgender children in the group of protected classes, including their right to use bathrooms and athletic facilities; and
--several major allocations to maintain and expand our existing IT services.  (Readers might remember that we've been having trouble lately because our capacity is often overloaded.)
Not included is the first look at the budget,  The current draft includes a raise, increase in class size at the secondary level and no support for better substitute services.  Also, we are anticipating a presentation on improved discipline oversight.  

Psst! Teach for America is failing despite massive federal dollars.

by Ann Sutherland on 04/23/16

This from a senior national TFA staffer via Diane Ravitch's blog:

March 17, 2016

Turmoil at Teach For America: Rounds of layoffs, leadership exodus imminent

Teach For America (TFA) is laying off employees from its national and regional staff.

CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard announced on February 29 that 250 TFA staff positions will be eliminated, calling the cuts “painful” in an internal TFA employee webcast. She said 100 new positions will also be created, leaving the net job loss at 150.

Despite the flashy celebration at TFA’s 25th Anniversary Summit held in Washington D.C. last month, TFA did not meet its recruiting target for the second year in a row.


2015 was the first time in its history that TFA laid off employees, and now it’s happening again.


But something appears to be different this time around. It’s not just the rank and file staff employees who are getting the ax, like they did in Spring 2015. This year it goes all the way up to the C-suite.


Sources say several senior leaders are “voluntarily” resigning amid alleged rumors of mismanagement and questionable business practices by the nonprofit organization.

Notifications went out two weeks ago to the first round of laid-off employees.


Unlike last year’s layoffs, when impacted employees were given notice several months in advance, this year TFA accelerated the termination process by breaking it into two separate rounds of layoffs. Employees who were given notice this week will be released on a memorable date, April 15 (Tax Day).


A second round of layoff looms, and survivors of the first round may still have cause for concern. The first round is supposed to be “mostly” national staff while the second round is “mostly” regional staff.


Employees who are part of the second round of layoffs will be released at the end of the fiscal year 2016, on May 27.


In addition to the staff layoffs and job restructuring, Villanueva Beard told TFA employees that the Office of The Chief Diversity Officer (OCDO) will be eliminated in September. Despite TFA’s self-professed commitment to diversity (it’s one of the organization’s core values), the decision to eliminate the OCDO comes only months after the new chief diversity officer was announced on

The chief marketing officer, along with the executive vice president of TFA’s Public Affairs Team are also allegedly “voluntarily” resigning, although that wasn’t shared in the webcast two weeks ago.

 The U.S. Department of Education has given TFA hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants since 2008. Government funding comprised 38% of TFA’s budget in 2015, totaling $69.7 million dollars that year alone, according to TFA’s 2015 Annual Report.

Report from the community forum: out-of-control children is the #1 issue.

by Ann Sutherland on 04/21/16

I thought the community forum would feature complaints about principals but it was all about the central office and their unrelenting sabotage of reasonable efforts by principals and teachers to address unacceptable behavior by students, including teacher assaults.  This when, acording to the 2014-15 climate survey, over half of secondary students are "always" or "sometimes" afraid at school.

There was also a complaint about required testing and preparation.  This single comment was supported by the whole room.

Here are comments about discipline, hopefully in the order of importance:
  1. Criminal acts are regularly ignored by school administration and/or police.  I am not sure which.  Teachers and administrators need to be told what the law is and how FWISD plans to enforce it.  (I was told we have no documentation of the number of referrals to campus police officers.)
  2. Teachers are kept in the dark regarding laws and district policies dealing with less serious student behavior and believe they are also often routinely ignored.
  3. Central office staff regularly "call out" schools who issue the most office referrals at principal meetings
  4. A disproportionate number of troublesome students live outside the school's attendance boundary.  But central office staff has instructed principals to ignore this unless the student is "tardy or absent" too much. (Nothing about tearing up the classroom.).  Principals need to be encouraged to use their community liaisons or other staff, to identify students who live outside the school attendance area.  One elementary school told me they have about 50 students who live in the Crowley school district.   
  5. When students are sent home for significant misbehavior, too many parents of troublemaking students routinely call "downtown" to ask that their student's punishment be rescinded.  In turn, principals are pressured to rescind the action.  This is a form of bullying by parents.
My follow-up recommendations:
      1.  Several teachers asked for a meeting with Dr. Scribner.  I agree.
      2. Responsibility for deciding whether an action should be reported to the police is the principal's under last year's SB107.  "The principal is what SB107 calls the 'Campus Behavior Coordinator (CBC)' and they have authority to address any and all discipline issues referred to them.  SB107 also stipulates they must exercise discretion in considering all mitigating factors ( self defense, homeless, pregnant and parenting, mental health issues, etc.) before assigning any type of suspension or expulsion.  This is the language that changed the long standing 'zero tolerance' idea."  
       In other words, you're on your own if the principal won't act.

It's the teachers, dummy.

by Ann Sutherland on 04/21/16

I am sick and tired of our leaders talking about transforming school districts. We read about some allegedly major changes wrought by various districts.  Even worse is the national obsession with evaluating teachers using test scores (this means you too, Texas).  The Houston ISD has gained a lot of attention by using test scores to evaluate teachers.  Their teacher representatives, the AFT finally got so sick of it a couple of years ago that they brought suit.  I understand it will be going to court later this year.

During the last month, I have read two well-known books on educational reform.  The first, about Joe Clark and his work with Eastside High school in the 1980s, was the subject of the well-known movie, "Lean on Me".  Clark's success had some major assistance from the superintendent, who gave him a free hand.  Mr. Clark was an amazing and hard-working man.  Nevertheless, he got rid of every teacher he didn't want and also expelled 400 students one year and 300 the next--nearly 25% of the school's enrollment.  This is an option we are unlikely to follow.

The second study is about the $200 million Newark city-wide project, which also failed despite having a well-known "Chief of Transformation" leading it.

After all these years, I still think teaching school is an awful lot like parenting.  You take the students you are handed and do your best, sometimes getting a little help.  It's basically on you.

That's why I support FWISD's teachers.  

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