Employee surveys, new tests designed to rate educators and smarter ways to keep great teachers were all part of Tuesdays discussion of how to make Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools a better place for kids to learn and adults to work.
Those talks played out on many fronts:
• Timothy Daly, president of a New York-based advocacy group that conducted a study on irreplaceable teachers, talked to CMS principals about doing more to keep their best teachers and get rid of their weakest.
• About 14 employees and community members urged the school board to join Superintendent Heath Morrison in trying to replace a toxic workplace culture with a caring, creative environment. It doesnt have to be this way! some chanted.
• Morrison and his staff briefed the board on new state tests that will be used to gauge student learning and teacher effectiveness. Many questions including the cost to CMS and other North Carolina districts remain unanswered, but Morrison said sharing what leaders know with employees and the public is vital to building trust.
Some board members who supported a 2010 CMS push to create more tests for teacher ratings voiced wariness about the state system being launched this year.
We have no choice in this matter. We have to do what the states telling us to do, said Eric Davis, who chaired the board during the CMS performance-pay push.
It feels a little bit like this is being done to us and not with us, Rhonda Lennon said, flipping a popular slogan about including teachers.
The central question: Can Morrison and the board protect what some teachers called the heart of CMS while pushing forward with a testing-driven quest to make sure students get the best teachers?
Daly, president of TNTP, said his group would like to see teacher pay reformed so the best teachers make six-figure salaries while the ineffective ones get severance packages. But the quicker solution, he told principals, is making sure they let top teachers know how much theyre valued.
The new state exams, known as measures of student learning, are designed to help identify the best teachers and eventually force out the weakest. Morrison says he hasnt yet seen the tests, which will include some written responses. The more open-ended questions there are, he said, the more it will cost to pay teachers to score them. Multiple-choice items can be scored by computers.
Speakers told the board a morale survey planned for this fall sounds promising. And some warned about overreliance on testing.
Carol Sawyer of Mecklenburg ACTS, which opposes test-based teacher ratings, noted that Dalys group labels a few top teachers The Irreplaceables based on numbers.
Does that mean the remaining teachers are replaceable? she asked.