I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Great Moments in Reformy Tantrum Throwing

Diane Ravitch points us to a story about yet another reformy "school leader" who can't get the job done; consequently, he throws a tantrum:
A Franklin County school superintendent vented publicly this week about the slow pace of reforms he wants to see at one of the largest public high schools in the area, Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans.
Robert Rosane, superintendent of the Franklin Central Supervisory Union, blasted faculty and administration for blocking innovationin an email he sent Monday to BFA social studies teacher and union leader Justin Bedell.
He copied the media on the email and amplified his concerns in an interview.
In the email to Bedell, Rosane said too many BFA students are graduating without meeting reading and math proficiency standards. Gradual change and a “Mr. Rogers” world of feel-good consensus won’t solve the problem, he wrote.
“Unless you can prove that current practice at BFA meets the needs of the majority of students, you need to support innovation and stopbeing obstructionist,” Rosane wrote. He threatened to push back against teachers and administrators who resist change. [emphasis mine]
Uh, well, that sounds great... as long as you can prove that your reforms have some evidence behind them that they might work!

This is, of course, how these guys operate:
- We need reform! 
- OK, what do you want to do? 
- We have to innovate! 
- OK, so tell us: what you want to do? 
- Well, we have to do something
- Uh...
Apparently, the school is at about the state average in 11th grade math and reading proficiency. While any school wants to be better than average, it's worth noting that Vermont is an above average state as measured by the NAEP and by SAT and ACT scores. Being "average" in Vermont is actually pretty good in the larger view.

But again, there's always room for improvement. So what is Mr. Rosane trying to do?
This year, BFA launched a new program called Academy 21. About 60 freshmen are enrolled in the prototype, which is designed to give students more of a say in their education and measure progress with demonstrations of proficiency rather than completion of credit hours or “seat time.” The structure allows students to spend more time in certain subjects if they need it and less time in others.
Rosane sees Academy 21 as a much-needed innovation, although he conceded that some parents are worried the non-traditional approach will hurt their children’s college chances.
The Academy will evolve and change but it’s not going away, Rosane said. “Our Academy 21 model says basically we need to make learning personal and we need to get rid of the time component and our (teachers) association is pushing back on that and saying, ‘guess what, time can’t be flexible’ and that’s really problematic.”
Wait a minute: you started a pilot program this year? Don't you want to see whether it's working or not before you radically remake your entire high school? Or do you normally just demand everyone go along with your untested schemes solely on your say-so?

One of the characteristics of this type of "school leader" is that he is often quick to blame failure on the dreaded teachers unions. We've had our fair share of these guys and gals here in Jersey, and there's a pattern I've detected: they are usually light on practical school experience themselves. When they can't get things done, they don't bother to look inward and consider the possibility that they may be the ones to blame; no, their first instinct is to lash out at unions, who dare to suggest that maybe teachers, as professionals, ought to have a say in the reforms implemented at their schools:
Rosane wants teachers to be more flexible about their work hours, less wedded to the traditional high school structure and more willing to dig deep and analyze current data, he said in an interview.
He decided to go public with his concerns to hurry up change, he said. "It was simply that I am absolutely at a frustration point where I don’t seem to be able to hold up the mirror to my administration and my faculty and say hey, you know what, we’re not doing the job we need to do. Face reality. I don’t know how else to say that."
With more than 60 percent of students at BFA not meeting math standards, it’s time to open up and stop pretending there’s no problem, he continued. "I want to call (expletive) on that,” Rosane said during a telephone interview.
Well, there's some lovely role-modeling for the kiddos, Mr. Rosane! (What is it with these foul-mouthed reformy-types?) Maybe if Mr. Rosane had a little more in-classroom experience, he wouldn't feel the need to curse. Because, before he came to BFA, Rosane was a principal for several years, but he never taught before he became a principal:

Rosane has never been a classroom teacher, but Kay said the dozen or so references he checked convinced him that that lack was not a problem in previous jobs.
He's not a "tell-you-how-to-teach" person, he said, but seeks to learn from his teachers.
I've known principals who came into the job having been guidance counselors or child study team members; there's nothing wrong with that. What I've never seen is someone who never taught in a classroom get up and start publicly pointing fingers at his staff when they can't meet his expectations.

Apparently, that's not the sort of "leader" the good people of Franklin County care to have run their schools:
The Franklin Central Supervisory Union school board voted Wednesday night to accept Superintendent Robert Rosane’s request for a leave of absence.
Supervisory Union Special Education Director Julie Regimbal is to serve as acting superintendent at Rosane’s rate of pay, the board said following the vote that occurred as 9 p.m. approached.
Earlier, in front of a full house at the school board meeting, several speakers urged that the outspoken superintendent be fired. About 100 people were present at the session.
School board members held their first meeting since Rosane blasted teachers and the principal at Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans for being obstructionist to reforms.
Two parents who spoke say BFA offers strong preparation for college and said Rosane’s talk of it as a failing school is wrong.
I've been saying for years now that you really can't expect to build community support for your "reforms" when you are bad-mouthing the performance of your community's children.
Said BFA guidance director Kathy Hutchinson to the board: ‘”These last few weeks have been devastating to our efforts to recruit students.”
She called on the board to settle the matter quickly. Hutchinson said BFA is an excellent school and noted about 35 percent of students are from towns with school choice.
BFA science teacher Tim Fugere told the board this: Rosane has the wrong kind of passion for job.
The name calling, the finger pointing, that’s not the kind of passion that needs to be instilled,” Fugere said.
Hey, the rest of the country has to sit there and take it when their bosses act like jerks; why should you teachers be immune? It's the American way, right? Just like the idea that those in charge aren't really accountable for what they do:
Many teachers disputed the superintendent’s contention that they are resistant to change.
BFA English teacher Peter Riegelman said in an interview: “We’re really not scared of change.”
He added of Rosane: “If we’re a failing school, then he’s failing, too. He seems to have put that whole thing off to the side.”
Well, of course he has! This is the trend in school leadership these days. I mean, Eli Broad started an (unaccredited) academy to teach exactly this type of behavior. Real leaders come in, disrupt long-term attempts at reform, leave quickly, pat themselves on the back for their awesomeness, then move on to the next target. And they don't bother with the rules - those are for little people:
Rosane has been superintendent in the four-school, Franklin County system since 2008.
His current two-year contract runs until June 30, 2013. He accepted a $2,000 cut from his $115,569 annual salary in September, public records show. The cut came after Rosane publicly apologized for failing to renew his superintendent’s license on time, which hampered his ability to perform aspects of his job.
Vermont Education Department records show Rosane’s superintendent’s license was expired for two months, from June 23 to Aug. 21. Both his superintendent’s license and his principal’s license were renewed effective Aug. 22 and are valid until 2019.
Rosane blamed the lapse on a paperwork problem.
I'll bet the ranch Eli Broad is calling this guy right now: he's the poster boy for the new, reformy school leader. The only reason he may not fit in with Eli's crew is that he actually has some real world school experience, even if it isn't teaching.

Well, no one's perfect...

We like the cut of Bob Rosane's jib!


Unknown said...

Hi Jersey--
I applaud your insistence on following what demonstrably works. The common cry to "Do anything else!" is okay to follow only if there are minimal consequences for big mistakes. But how about trying things that show results in two weeks--or not? If teachers simply understand how to deepen knowledge immediately by designing practice-in-explaining whatever they teach, students learn more the first hour. The first day ends with more conscious knowledge simply because the have followed the rules of learning by spaced interval, thoughtful, repetition in a practice mode. In two weeks, you have a body of testable knowledge that they know at a different level than what they learned before. In two weeks, teachers can check out a simple adaptation in how they spend time in the classroom and what they ask students to do. For anyone interested in understanding this approach, Rowman and Littlefield this year have published my 3-volume Practice Makes Permanent series. I can email the proofs of the series to anyone interested, on request. Contact: jjensen@gci.net. John Jensen, Ph.D.

ad77 said...

Wait until Cerf's new RAC (Regional Achievement Centers) put the new Turnaround Companies in charge of schools and then NJ will get an entire choir of tantrums!

But those screams should be taxpayers!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The carnage