Monday, March 29, 1999

CPS peer-training threatened by cuts

District rejects union alternatives

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Despite rave reviews from the Ohio governor's office, the Ohio Department of Education and national education groups, Cincinnati Public Schools is considering reducing its union-sponsored teacher training and assessment programs.

        The programs — which salvage some careers with intense inservice training and end others with peer reviews — are what many districts wish they were doing.

        But Superintendent Steven Adamowski has proposed cut ting $1.4 million from a total of $4.5 million spent on the Peer Assistance and Evaluation Program (PAEP) and the Career-in-Teaching Program.

        That was expected. But some unpopular details surfaced during a school-board meeting last week, according to Cincinnati Federation of Teachers President Tom Mooney.

        Mr. Adamowski proposes:

        • Ending some cash incentives for teachers who seek higher certification and assume bigger duties.

        • Shifting new teacher evaluation from veteran peers to principals.

        It's part of the $20 million that district officials decided to trim from the 1999-2000 budget after public protests persuaded them to drop plans for a levy in May.

        When it became apparent that counterproposals — meant to retain some of the evaluation/training programs — were being ignored, Mr. Mooney stormed out of Wednesday's board meeting.

        “It's a big step backward,” Mr. Mooney said later. “Why would you cut programs that have gotten all these national citations, programs that are so obviously successful?”

        He knew the programs were threatened; CFT has been running public-service ads on local radio stations condemning the proposed cuts.

        But details and hardline rejection of CFT alternatives stoked his fury last week.

        Under PAEP, 20 consulting teachers who are successful veterans act as mentors to new teachers and struggling veterans. They also evaluate them and can recommend dismissal for those who show insufficient progress.

        In 14 years, 114 teachers have been dismissed after consulting teachers judged them to be hopeless; 60 were veterans, and 54 were new teachers.

        During that same period, principals recommended 25 teachers for termination, Mr. Mooney said. The rate of dismissals of beginning teachers doubled when teachers took over evaluations from principals, he added.

        Only three of the 114 cases have gone to arbitration; one teacher was reinstated, Mr. Mooney said.

        Since 1986, principals judged 123 veteran teachers to be inadequate and referred them to the program's intense, inservice mentoring. Of the 123, 90 took part in the program's coaching, evaluating and mentoring. The remaining 33 remained in their classrooms, teaching without the additional help.

        Sixty of those 90 quit without participating in the mentoring, retired or eventually were fired.

        Twenty-seven of the 90 improved to a satisfactory level and three are still in the program, getting the extra help.

        A measure of success is how few teachers have fought dismissal recommendations by their peers, Mr. Mooney said.

        Under Mr. Adamowski's proposal, eight of the 20 consulting teacher positions would be cut.

        Under the Career-in-Teaching Program, veteran “lead” teachers receive bonuses of up to $6,500 a year for taking on additional duties and providing peer training.

        Cincinnati has about 425 certified lead teachers of whom 265 take on the extra work and receive stipends, according to the CFT.

        Mr. Adamowski proposed carving about $850,000 from the program.

        The district also should quit certifying lead teachers in schools that haven't adopted district-endorsed reforms, he said. And officials must determine whether the program truly works, he said.

        “We have a wonderful program that feels good, but we need to do a little research on it,” Mr. Adamowski said. “Is the achievement level of students taught by credentialed teachers higher?”

        Mr. Mooney predicted the cuts would crush teacher morale and raise attrition rates, particularly among new teachers.

        “It's just fantasy to think principals will have time to adequately evaluate first-year teachers,” he said. “If you don't have some serious mentoring and coaching and scrutiny in the first year, you're going to see good people flounder and quit on you — or you're going to see bad teachers slipping through the cracks.”


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