Monday, September 7, 2015

The Next Blue Ribbon Panel Meeting

I have taken a nice long break from blogging.  Plenty of excuses for the break, but the best two are preparing to take on a new role in school that has just started and recharging the brain to focus on teaching and being a parent.  When I start talking about politics in South Dakota and the general treatment of education by Pierre, I get a tad depressed and the cynicism grows and grows.  I hate to have that destroy the last bastions of summer and the beginning of school.

In the last Blue Ribbon panel that meet August 19, they brought in expert Richard Ingersoll to explain that salary is not the main cause for teacher shortages around the country.  The Argus Leader summed up his generic talking points this way:
Richard Ingersoll, an education professor for the University of Pennsylvania, presented his research Wednesday to members of South Dakota’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students. 
School leaders in the state have reported dwindling candidate pools and a spike in unfilled teacher openings. They blame South Dakota’s low teacher salaries, which rank last in the nation. 
At least nationally, however, pay isn’t the main reason for teacher dissatisfaction, Ingersoll said. 
“It is a factor, but it’s not the only one, and it’s not the main one,” Ingersoll said. (Argus Leader Aug 22, 2015)
I say generic, not because I dispute Dr. Ingersoll's research (which is a bit dated), but that his findings are on a national scope and do not look specifically at South Dakota's issues.  This is something that the Argus and, I fear, many others overlooked when actually listening to the testimony.  For example, one of the reasons for lower wages in school districts and problem staffing is a "greening" effect that is occurring.  He explains the "greening" as districts getting more new teachers and fewer experienced teachers.  However this is not occurring in South Dakota since according to Dr. Schopp's data, over 31% of South Dakota workforce is 51+ years of age and only 19% is 20-30 years old.

At about 7:39 into the second session, Supt. Pearson asks if the South Dakota numbers an ages matched the nation.  The answer from Ingersoll was simply "No."  Then Ingersoll goes on to explain how South Dakota is not showing the greening like the rest of the nation.  Pearson comes back at about 9:40 into the second session to point out that this means that the majority of our teachers would be on the higher end of the pay-scale, but we still rank 51st in the nation.  

The majority of the panel seemed to have been talking about how there is not really a crisis in staffing (despite what everyone is saying in the school districts on the ground) or there are a lot of ways to cover shortages with other things like computers.  There has been little talk about actually dealing with the problems.  Problems like that pointed out by Dr. Ingersoll that only 51% of teacher graduates actually stay in the state teaching (25 minutes into the second session).  A "striking data point from a researcher's view point."  Problems like that we do not have the greening impact to off-set the number of retiree's.  In fact there has been little to nothing about the real issue of education funding in South Dakota.

Don't expect much of anything to come from the September 9 meeting.  They will be talking about extending student teaching to a full year across the state as a way to better prepare beginning teachers to all the stuff that is not teaching in a classroom that a teacher has to do.  I don't see how this will impact education funding for schools?  Maybe, the Blue Ribbon Panel's main goal was how to actually staff schools for as cheap as possible?  The only indicator that we may get is the small group discussions (I will be interested in how they will broadcast this) and the framing scope of work and the tenets and goals portion.  

There is only one meeting left after the September 9 date (unless they go to overtime at the end of October).  The number one concern from educators about the panel was that they actually do something and not waste our time.  So far, things are not looking too good.

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