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It Is Not All Roses

Tingley-021 color-1It’s not all roses in California although the parade here in Pasadena on Monday might make you think so.  It was a picture-perfect day with brilliant blue skies, temperatures in the low 80s, and the Sierra Madres looking like a movie backdrop.  What you don’t see on TV are the thousands of people who camp out along the parade route the night before with chairs and mattresses and hibachis and even area rugs and sleeping bags. 

The floats were magnificent, of course, and the marching bands appropriately stirring.  As a school person I was more fascinated by the high school bands from out of state with 250-350 band members plus flags and drum majors, not to mention all the parents who were there to help out along the parade route.  It’s hard to overestimate the amount of fundraising it took to bring all of those kids and adults to Pasadena.  The parade, by the way, is over 5 miles long, and you have to hand it to the kids for stepping sharp and looking good and maybe not passing out.

The theme of this year’s parade was, “Just Imagine …” and it was easy to go with that thought.  Just imagine how great it would be, for example, if every day were like this.  While we’re at it, just imagine how great it would be if all kids had the opportunity to march down Colorado Avenue, proud to be there, proud of their school.  Just imagine how great it would be even if a kid didn’t march down Colorado and was still proud of his school and the learning opportunities it provided.

Rose-bowl-parade-176Well, we can imagine it anyway.  A new study released by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning describes the status of the teaching profession in California in 2011.  Among its findings is that more than $20 billion in cumulative cuts to school districts have occurred since 2007.  Schools have had to increase class size, lay off teachers (about 13,000), reduce professional development (by $100 million), and even cut the number of instructional days.

Administrative layoffs have increased the responsibilities of principals remaining in the schools.  The study notes that in 2008-09, California ranked 48th out of 50 states in its ratio of principals and assistant principals to students. California principals report working longer hours and focusing more on management than leadership. With cutbacks and retirements, more than half of California’s principals have fewer than 5 years’ experience.

Of particular interest is that regarding teacher evaluation, about a third of principals reported that they had insufficient time to complete classroom evaluations and give teachers feedback.  And about a quarter of principals say they feel as if they don’t have the competence or experience to evaluated teachers anyway.

Of course, as we all know, a decrease in funding is concurrent with an increase of expectations for schools.  A possible result of this situation is that between 2001-02 and 2009-10, enrollment in teacher preparation program declined by more than 50%.  Retirement, on the other hand, increased over 20% in 2010 from the previous year.

So it’s not all roses – or flowers and sausages, as Mimi says.  The disconnect between what is and what could be – the cognitive dissonance – could make one look askance at the pomp and circumstance in Pasadena.  Or it could make us say, “If people can work together to pull this parade off, why can’t they work together to find reasonable solutions to our kids’ education?” Just imagine.



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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.