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102 Teachers Seek To Become “Super Tutors”

by Melissa Bailey | Mar 7, 2014 5:04 pm

(10) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Schools, School Reform

Melissa Bailey Photo Jeremiah Davila already finds himself staying after school every day. If he’s lucky, he may soon get paid to do so.

Davila, who works at Engineering & Science University Magnet School (ESUMS), is one of 102 public-school teachers who applied for a new position called “super tutor.”

“Super tutor” is of three new jobs New Haven has created in an effort to professionalize the 1,800-person teaching workforce and give teachers an opportunity to take on extra responsibilities with up to $5,000 in extra pay. The new positions will be paid for by a $53 million, five-year grant from the federal government’s Teacher Incentive Fund.

In addition to those hoping to become super tutors, 132 teachers put in applications to become “curriculum facilitators.” And 52 teachers sent in new applications to add to the ranks of “teacher facilitators,” new position created last fall. The jobs are open to teachers who scored “effective” or higher (a 3 on a 5-point scale) on their teacher evaluations; the deadline to apply has passed.

The positions aim to change the longstanding system by which teachers get paid solely based on seniority and education degrees, said Superintendent Garth Harries. Until recently, teachers had no way to advance in the profession without leaving the classroom to become administrators.

The new jobs aim to expand teachers’ pay and responsibilities “so the best teachers are willing to stay in the profession,” Harries said. They changes were made possible by the recent ratification of a new teachers contract that continues the course of the city’s school reform drive.

Meanwhile, some teachers have refused to send in applications due to objections with the program.

Super Powers

Davila and his colleague Brian MacWilliam (pictured above) were among at least a half-dozen teachers from ESUMS who responded to the district’s call for applications for “super tutors.” It requires staying after school to tutor groups of six to eight students. The district is offering qualifying teachers $2,500 to do the job for the rest of this school year (50 hours of tutoring) and $5,000 for next school year (100 hours of tutoring).

Davila said when he looked at the offer, he didn’t want to take on any extra responsibilities. He already teaches 86 sophomores and juniors in chemistry and AP chemistry, in addition to running the science Olympiad and the school’s submissions to the citywide science fair. The school day at ESUMS, a magnet school serving grades 6 to 11 in a swing space on Hamden’s Leeder Hill Road, ends at 2 p.m. Davila said he stays after school until 5 p.m. each day to informally tutor students. That includes his regular students, as well as students as young as 6th and 7th grade.

“He’s already doing the super tutor [duties], he’s just not getting paid for it,” MacWilliam said of his colleague.

MacWilliam, who’s in his sixth year as a teacher, said he used to stay long hours after school. Now he runs home to see his wife and two kids at their home in East Haven before heading back to school—not ESUMS, but Southern Connecticut State University, where he’s earning his master’s degree.

MacWilliam, who teaches 70 students in physical chemistry and physics, jumped at the opportunity to take on more tutoring and make a few extra dollars.

“I love tutoring in small groups,” said MacWilliam. “You see the light bulb click on” in students’ minds. Students feel more comfortable asking questions, and the teacher has a better understanding for what they’re struggling with and how to help them, he said.

The extra money won’t hurt either, MacWilliam said. He is supporting his wife and two kids on his $51,745 salary. They own a home in East Haven.

“I’m not in debt. The ends meet,” he said, but “it’s a challenge.” He has never been compensated for extra duties he has taken on, such as serving as lead teacher for the 11th-grade team.

Davila, meanwhile, has been tutoring chemistry students at the University of Connecticut to earn a few extra dollars and stay in touch with the type of science taught in colleges. Before he got into teaching, he worked in hydrogen cell research for United Technologies Corporation. He said he took a $30,000 pay cut when he entered the teaching profession. Now, in his fourth year teaching, he now makes $45,357.

A Bigger “Sphere Of Influence”

Davila said if he lands the “super tutor” position, he would expand the ranks of the kids he is already tutoring voluntarily after school. He said the kids who stay after school tend to be “self-motivated.” He and MacWilliam said they would like to figure out which kids have the greatest gaps in skills and invite them to do the extra tutoring.

Some students get tripped up because they are missing math skills, such as solving for X or figuring out the slope of a line.

“In the science realm, most things come back to math,” said MacWilliam.

Davila and MacWilliam both pronounced themselves teachers for life.

“If you ask me what I want to do when I’m not teaching, it’s figuring out how to teach something,” Davila confessed. Davila, who grew up in Bristol and now lives in Rocky Hill, said his students think he’s “nuts” and has no social life. The 32-year-old said he has no kids and his wife works until 7 p.m., so he doesn’t have to be home until then anyway. And he loves the job.

“This is a joy,” said Davila. “I got bored in industry. I never get bored here. This is a constant challenge.”

The school district has not decided how many of the 102 applicants it will take on as “super tutors,” according to spokeswoman Abbe Smith. The final number “depends on the applications received.”

It’s not clear exactly whom the super-tutors would work with: Superintendent Harries said the idea is to have teachers take on kids they aren’t already teaching, so that they expand their “sphere of influence.” But that notion was not included in the job description.

Transportation may be one concern: School buses don’t serve students who stay late after school. Those kids have to get picked up by their families or find other ways home. Schools usually offer CT Transit passes so kids can take the public bus home. The CT Transit bus does stop right outside ESUMS, but students who live in surrounding towns, such as East or West Haven, may face a long ride home on public transit. (The school accepts students from New Haven and surrounding suburbs.)

In addition to the unknown number of “super tutors,” the district is creating an unknown number of “curriculum facilitator” positions. In addition to teaching their normal course loads, these teachers will work with curriculum supervisors to come up with ways to train teachers on how to implement standards, including the Common Core State Standards, in the classroom. Like the super tutors, the curriculum facilitators will be paid $2,500 for the rest of this academic year and $5,000 for next year.

The district is also planning to expand its group of “teacher facilitators” who are now running professional development groups on a topic of their own choice. The teachers attended a leadership boot camp last summer, then began work in the fall. With the help of a $1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the district aims to expand the group of facilitators from 52 to 300 in two years.

The district also received 80 “open applications” from teachers to apply for stipends of up to $5,000 with their own proposals.

It also opened up 21 spots for administrators to attend a nine-month leadership training called the Yancy Forum.

Successful applicants will be “selected based on qualitative and quantitative data,” according to the district.

Boycott

Some teachers, meanwhile, refused to apply for the new jobs.

“I cannot support a program that divides our school communities,” wrote Chris Willems, a science teacher at Metropolitan Business Academy, in a note under a petition posted online.

Willems and a group of teachers that calls themselves the New Haven Educators Collective posted the petition online last month with a cartoon of educators elbowing each other, and trampling children, to grab a few extra bucks from Uncle Sam.

“We pledge not to apply to merit pay positions,” the petition reads.

Thirty-one people signed the petition, including supporters from around the state; four of the publicly listed names appear to be New Haven public school teachers.

The petition denounces New Haven for creating a system of “merit pay”—a characterization district leaders emphatically dispute.

The “merit pay” charge stems from the last teachers contract, which ended automatic raises for teachers who score less than “effective” on their evaluations. Teachers who score below a 3 on a 5-point scale will have to do up to 10 hours of professional development before getting their raises (called “step increases”) the next year.

“The arrival of merit pay also coincides with a national push from the Obama Administration, which replaces supplemental funding to state’s education budgets with Race to the Top, a competitive federal grant program that incentivizes states to battle for a finite pool of money—part of an overall attack on public schools and their unions,” the petition reads.

“Some may believe that educators should be compensated based on their effectiveness in the classroom but all workers have the right to expect a stable salary. Additionally, merit pay has not been proven to be an effective means of improving public education. Merit pay undermines collaboration and teamwork; it corrupts the culture of a school,” their petition continues.

Harries and Union President Dave Cicarella, meanwhile, have argued that New Haven’s contract is nothing like “merit pay” as that word is used nationally. Washington, D.C. drew controversy for creating a merit-play plan that awards bonuses to the highest-ranked educators based solely on job evaluations. At least five states—Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, and Utah—also tie teacher pay directly to evaluations, according to a recent report by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

“We’re not interested in merit pay—getting paid for test scores,” Harries said. “But we do think folks who have an expanded impact should have expanded compensation.”

New Haven is not awarding teachers simply for boosting kids’ test scores; it is offering extra money only to teachers who take on extra roles, Harries and Cicarella argue.

Teachers’ petition further argues that creating stipended positions will divide the workforce.

Teacher Jen Drury, who works at Career High School, said she is “boycotting” the new positions.

“There are hundreds of teachers who already willingly give their time and energy after school,” Drury wrote in the petition. “Financial incentives will diminish that. People will eventually come to believe, ‘Well, they don’t pay ME to stay after school’ and they will stop staying after school,” she predicted.

“We must not be swayed by the ‘lucrative’ opportunities for ‘upward-mobility,’” Drury wrote. “All the grassroots [teachers] have gone way of middle managers. I am not a middle manager.”

“We know that teachers work way more than 6 1/2 hours a day,” Superintendent Harries later responded. “Teachers work long, hard hours outside of the school day to make sure their students succeed.” He said the new positions aim to honor extra work with extra pay and extra accountability. And by paying teachers to work on curriculum and teachers training, Harries argued, New Haven aims to empower teachers to guide the city’s school reform effort from the “bottom up.”

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posted by: concernedcitizenNewHaven on March 7, 2014  7:58pm

Union busting, pure and simple.

The positions aim to change the longstanding system by which teachers get paid solely based on seniority and education degrees, said Superintendent Garth Harries.

posted by: Po Etry on March 7, 2014  10:43pm

Can someone kindly explain to me how being compensated for doing extra work—work that ultimately helps students and improves the quality of instruction and learning—is considered “merit pay?”  Merit pay links student test scores to a teacher’s rating.  The teachers who apply for these positions “work way more than 6.5 hours/day,” as Supt. Harries stated.  Why are teachers considered to be money-grubbers (as implied by that insulting cartoon) by wanting to be compensated for our time?

posted by: Callisto on March 8, 2014  7:54am

Complete disinformation. Empowering teachers “from the bottom up” is not occuring in New Haven. The non-educator elitist oligarchs are actively imposing a top-down corporate structure wherein kids and teachers have NO voice in evaluating teachers (instead teachers are evaluated by insufficient “walk-throughs”), and where the Superintendent grades himself! All the while, merit pay crumbs rain down on the compliant ones who do not see the “divide and conquer” strategy meant to disrupt teacher unity and further erode what little union representation still exists. This NHI comment from the union VP (http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/new_haven_teacher_evals_3rd_year/#cmt) sums it up nicely: “...we will NEVER have teachers evaluate teachers as is done in other places where teachers who evaluate may have ulterior motives for making decisions that may enhance their own situations”. “Ulterior motives”?? of the teachers?? And I pay for such “representation”. Don’t believe the propaganda. It’s ALL been trickle-down faux-progressive think-tank jive.

posted by: Brutus2011 on March 8, 2014  9:50am

I agree that the real goal here is to divide the teacher corps.

NHPS and NHFT management rightly discern that there is a very real possibility that teachers are waking up and may soon take back their collective bargaining power they have naively given up to their union management and by default to NHPS administrators.

Teachers are waking up to the notion that they are can and should be running our individual school’s curriculum implementation.

posted by: Teacher in New Haven on March 9, 2014  6:49am

For decades football coaches and drama teachers have recieved around $5,000 for using their specific skills and a significant investment of time to do extra work at school.  At the same time teachers make $23/ hour for “part-time” work above and beyond their contractual duties.  This number has not changed significantly in a long long time.  It no longer serves as an incentive for most teachers to take on extra responsibilities.  In fact, I know many teachers who are working a second job to make ends meet, rather than doing part time work for the district.

In comes a program, seeking to rectify this gross oversight, and out comes the wailing an gnashing of teeth.  It is the union’s job to ensure that we are paid fairly for the work we do.  It is not the Union’s job to push for a world in which we all make the same low salary out of some misplaced 1920’s version of solidarity. 

Put another way, it is the Union’s job to represent its members.  Those members have now overwhelmingly voted for two reform contracts, and have re-elected the leadership twice.  It is insulting to read some of these comments that possit that these people are nothing more than lambs to the slaughter, rather than educated adults making a rational choice about their own future. 

More-over, to those who claim that this will destroy us, I submit that vilifying teachers (especially new teachers) who want to make a little more so that they can give up that bartending job on the weekends is a surer way to destroy the solidarity of the union than offering the money could ever be.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on March 9, 2014  9:27am

Maybe I am naive, but I just don’t see the conspiracy.  We always say teachers put in such long hours for which they are not paid.  This seems like a step toward fixing that.  $5000 to encourage these dedicated teachers to keep teaching?  If the opportunity is available to all teachers who want to make the commitment, I can’t see the harm.

posted by: Teachergal on March 9, 2014  2:59pm

Harries quotes “The positions aim to change the longstanding system by which teachers get paid solely based on seniority and education degrees, said Superintendent Garth Harries. Until recently, teachers had no way to advance in the profession without leaving the classroom to become

This is true. But is becoming a coach of teachers for 5,000 a year , in addition to their regular responsibities, really an advancement? As a teacher who spent many additionl hours before and after school, I am not sure I could even fit in any additional responsibilities. Teachers aren’t after school twiddling their thumbs looking for additional work.

And to Garth, many teachers received sixth year degrees years ago and promised coaching positions and watched while many you ger, less educated teachers were given the jobs based on connections. That really needs to be fixed in new haven. Just because I am the niece of Imma Canelli should not give me a job. (just an example, I’m not related)!

posted by: Chris Willems on March 9, 2014  3:34pm

I comment from the perspectives of both student and teacher.  I attended NHPS kindergarten through 12th grade (Benjamin Jepson, Fair Haven Junior High, Wilbur Cross ‘85).  I am proud to be in my 11th year of science teaching service to my hometown.

Those of you who have taught, know it is a fantastically complicated work (even when your students are healthy, wealthy and cared for).  In my experience, if you are teaching well, there is not much “else” you have time for.

Honestly, my experiences in the New Haven Schools in the 1970’s and 80’s were not too great.  Our schools have gotten much better while our child population has become much less affluent.

I chose this profession and love the work.  Most of my waking hours – seven days a week – including “summers” - are dedicated to planning class and lab experiences, reviewing student work, and working with colleagues.

Because the “Teacher Incentive Fund” money is not available to all teachers, it is merit pay.  Fair is using the money to pay any teacher a flat hourly rate for extra work.

Instead we have a chosen to pay some teachers lump sums.  This grant (and the raises that are part of the agreed-to extra work time in our new contract) disappears in September, 2017.  What happens then?  There is no “extra” money in the New Haven budget.

Society gives teachers enormous responsibility.  The deal is, if teachers do all parts of their complicated jobs well, we don’t fire them.  We pay them WELL and help them build stable school communities.  They pay into their own state pension plan.

I have concerns about the goals of the TIF grant.  From the outside, it looks like a simple “pay teachers for the work they do”.  The TIF grant actually says it wants to make teacher work rules “flexible”, change the pay scale, and ultimately enable all decisions about teachers be tied to teacher evaluation and standardized test scores.

Am I reading it wrong?

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/teacherincentive/apps2012/s374a120047.pdf

posted by: Teacher in New Haven on March 13, 2014  10:12am

Chris,

No.  You are not reading it wrong.  But you are selectively choosing your reading material.  The description of the grant program is only at best half the story.  New Haven’s grant application is the other half. 

In a city that already had flexible work rules before the grant, and retention decisions were already made using teacher evaluations, it is not hard to see why the Federal Government would put their faith in us. 

But without reading our application, you can’t know the extent to which we pledged move forward with those specific things in New Haven. 

We are, for example, moving into a window of time when evaluations will have to be based on something other than state tests in most cases, given the lack of baseline data on Smarter Balance, and the sunsetting of CAPT/CMT.

As for fairness, I am not sure what you mean by available to all teachers.  All teachers were encouraged to apply. The fact that they didn’t, for whatever reason they didn’t, does not mean it wasn’t available to them.

posted by: Chris Willems on March 13, 2014  8:16pm

@“Teacher in New Haven”

I did read New Haven’s application for the Teacher Incentive fund.  Is there a separate application from the link?  How am I “selectively choosing reading material”?

1.  New Haven will increase focus on Teach For America recruitment.  Their recruits are recent college graduates – smart and generally interested in teaching.  Unfortunately, most leave after just two years, as they are getting the hang of urban classrooms.  Why would we recruit more inexperienced temporary teachers?

2.  The district is tracking student learning at the classroom level and mapping to student growth data in SchoolNet (the online student data management system).  In what meaningful way can the district “track student learning at the classroom level”?

3.  “New Haven will work with NHFT through the Talent Council to negotiate a salary structure based on effectiveness.”  Including “adding to or replacing salary increases.”  “The goal is to tie all significant increases (in pay) to effectiveness.”  This experiment is now underway.

True, teachers agreed to flexible work rules in the first “reform contract” in 2010.  The recent contract adds nearly 100 working hours to the year, for which we are receiving generous raises.  I fear there will be many schools that vote to “waive work rules” and change essential protections this spring.

The “Incentive Fund” money is not available to all teachers.  I remind you that a teacher must have a 3 (“average”) or higher rating to participate.  Therefore, it excludes teachers based on merit.  Our union has admitted the teacher evaluation process is unreliable.  Yet, we have restricted opportunities because of a rating number?

Finally, can I assume you know me?  Come out in the open so we can have a transparent dialogue about the radical changes underway in New Haven Public Schools.

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