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									 1   Transcript of TOP-Ed’s John Fensterwald’s interview with Dean Vogel,
 2   President-elect, CTA
 3   June 2011
 4
 5   JF:     I’m with, today, Dean Vogel, the incoming president of the California Teachers
 6           Association. Dean has been vice president of the CTA, as well as a teacher for 37 years,
 7           including 10 years as an elementary-school counselor in Vacaville Unified, and he’s also
 8           been a college instructor. So, Dean, welcome. Congratulations!
 9
10   DV:     Thanks, John. It’s good to be here. Always good to talk to you.
11
12   JF:     Thank you. So, you know, you come in, you take office of the largest NEA affiliate in
13           America at a time of great turmoil for teachers and public schools. So what are your goals
14           as CTA president?
15
16   DV: Well, it’s a tremendous opportunity to be the leader of an organization like CTA when times
17        are tough. A major goal of mine is to – to really reach out and make a connection to the
18        rank-and-file members, the people working in the buildings; because what CTA is really
19        about is making things better for kids, and making learning environments better for kids,
20        and – and that’s where our members are, and they’re the ones that know about that, and –
21        and so I really want to help them feel a reconnection to the union that’s representing them
22        and –and fight for what’s best for public education.
23
24   JF:    Teachers’ unions have been under attack nationwide, with…cutbacks in bargaining rights
25   in Wisconsin and other states, and the imposition of evaluation systems that the teachers have
26   opposed. In California, CTA has pretty much been immune from those kinds of movements; but
27   are you confident that that will remain so? And what do you see happening in California?
28
29   DV: I tell you, John, I think it’s only a matter of time before what I’ve been calling the
30   “pseudo-reform movement” that’s been sweeping the country is going to come right to us;
31   because all the players are here, and the money’s here, and the argument has spread. Both
32   political parties are talking about the need for change.
33
34   Our concern is that if – if we’re going to – if we’re going to reform things, change things, it
35   needs to be thoughtful. It needs to be vetted properly with all the appropriate stakeholders; and I
36   really do believe that the California Teachers Association is positioned to have a vital role in this
37   – in this argument and debate, and we’re ready for that. We’ve got a work group that we put
38   together a year ago on teacher evaluation, because we really believe the system that we use
39   currently needs some serious work. It needs to be changed, because a teacher-evaluation system
40   should be building a better professional practice. Should be helping teachers with their craft, and
41   we believe that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in that area.
42


     TOP ED Interview with Dean Vogel, June 10, 2011                                                 Page 1
43   JF:     So when you talk about that, are you talking about a working group in California? Or are
44   you talking about the nationwide effort of which you were a co-chairman, I believe?
45
46   DV: Well, we have a group right here in California, a teacher-evaluation work group; but also,
47   there was a group that the NEA had, that I co-chaired, that was the Work Group on Educator
48   Excellence, and the task of that group was to develop a policy statement that could be put before
49   the representative assembly of NEA this coming July in Chicago.
50
51   JF:    So what are your bottom lines on evaluations? What are the things that you would not
52   want in an evaluation, or things you would accept and are open to?
53
54   DV: Let me tell you where we are, just CTA-wise, and in California. What we believe is that
55   the focus of a…teacher-evaluation system should really be, like I said earlier, building a better
56   professional practice. Teachers want to improve their craft, and an evaluation system should be
57   something that’s going to allow teachers to get a good look at what they’re doing, and to also
58   reflect on what kids are learning, you know, whether or not they’re actually getting done what
59   they’re trying to get done; and then give them the support and the resources they need to improve
60   their practice.
61
62   JF:   There seems to be, you know, large agreement on many of those areas, and then it comes
63   down to student performance as measured by something –
64
65   DV:     Right.
66
67   JF:    -- whether it’s standardized test scores or other measures. Your position, both in that
68   paper and personally?
69
70   DV: I will tell you that it’s really hard to take a standardized test that was developed to
71   compare groups of students, and then expect results on those tests to be some kind of reflection
72   of teacher professional practice. Much more realistic to think that it’s the way the teacher uses
73   the test data.
74
75   So what you want from me as a teacher is, you want me to look at the way my kids are – are –
76   are testing, or what the data shows, and then use that data, and reflect, and then adjust my
77   teaching to – to suit that, so that I know that I’m getting to kids what I’m trying to get to ‘em.
78
79   That’s our position. And we believe, as long as you’re focusing on, when you’re focusing on the
80   test scores, as long as the determinant there is we’re going to look at how the teacher uses that
81   data to inform instruction. To the degree that that’s how tests are used, we believe it can be a
82   very powerful tool.
83
84   JF:    But I can infer from that, it’s okay to use them as part of the evaluation, but the point of
85   an evaluation is to improve teachers’ instruction.

     TOP ED Interview with Dean Vogel, June 10, 2011                                                  Page 2
 86
 87   DV:     Yeah, not. It not really exactly what I said.
 88
 89   JF:     Okay.
 90
 91   DV: Because let me be really clear. I want to use – I want to assess the teacher’s use of the
 92   data, okay? So if the – if the data’s there, and the teacher uses it appropriately, what it’s going to
 93   do is, it’s going to inform better practice. It’s going to allow the teacher to adjust instruction to
 94   meet the needs of the kids, and students are going to learn, and the achievement gaps are going
 95   to close. All of that stuff.
 96
 97   JF:   Right. I wish we could talk about evaluations all day. Let’s come back if we have time.
 98   So what can the CTA do to attract the next generation of teachers into the profession?
 99
100   DV: When we talk to people, when we talk to beginning teachers, and we ask them, “What
101   would keep you here?” You know, the kinds of things they say is really interesting. They don’t
102   talk about—nearly so much about—wanting more money, even though any college graduate
103   would like to be making more than $40,000 a year, and that’s about where you’re going to start;
104   but they talk about things like, they want to have autonomy in the work place. They want to
105   believe that their professional decision-making is being valued. They want to have instruction
106   leaders. They want to have people helping them, inform their practice, or build better
107   professional practice. So most of what we hear from new people is that they want to get better at
108   what they do, and they want to feel that they’re getting the support they need to get better.
109
110   JF:     In this next generation, if I can speak for the generation, I think they expect to change
111   jobs over the course of a career, and they want more autonomy in their jobs, and you say money
112   is not an issue, but it would seem that the step-and-column ways in which teachers are paid are
113   out of phase with those expectations.
114
115   DV: You know, you raise a good question, and this is something that we’ve been debating for
116   a while, but think about this. What the step-and-column system does is it rewards experience;
117   and, you know, just for argument’s sake, I would suspect that you’re a much better reporter now
118   than you were when you very first started. You know one of the things we know about the
119   professions, and just about work we do, is that as you progress, and you have the opportunity to
120   work with other people doin’ the same work, you build skill sets that improve your practice. So
121   what the current salary schedule does is, it says that, “If you’ll stay in the profession, we’ll give
122   you more pay.” And what that does is, it encourages people to stay in. It’s really to our
123   advantage to have veteran teachers that can be the collegial support to young folks.
124
125   JF:     Let’s take a break and come back and discuss that further, and some other issues.…
126
127
128

      TOP ED Interview with Dean Vogel, June 10, 2011                                                  Page 3
129   Part 2
130
131   JF:    …We’re back with Dean Vogel, who is the incoming president of the California Teachers
132   Association. So, Dean, let’s pick up where we left off. One of the issues of interest is tenure.
133   California is one of the few states in the nation – and “tenure” is defined as extension of due-
134   process rights to teachers – one of the few states in which you can grant tenure after two years.
135   Would you be open to granting tenure at three or four years?
136
137   DV: I think the question really is, what kind of assessment do we need to do, of teacher
138   quality, or teacher effectiveness, in order to grant permanent status? Because really, in
139   California, that’s what we’re talking about, permanent status. What it means is, that if we’re
140   going to terminate you, then we’ve got to notify you, and we’ve gotta give you – got to
141   appreciate your due process, and give you the opportunity to stand before the folks that are
142   challenging you, and build your case.
143
144   The question really becomes, “What kind of process should we use to determine whether or not
145   you have what it takes to be an effective teacher?” And, in some cases, two years is plenty of
146   time. You know, if you’ve got the right kind of evaluator, if you’ve got people that really have a
147   pedagogical understanding of the dynamics of teaching and learning, and can really evaluate
148   your effectiveness in a two-year period, it’s very adequate. Some places are saying three. Some
149   are saying four. Right now, our position is –the ed code (states) here in California, is two years.
150
151   JF:     It’s really one and a half by the time you –
152
153   DV:     Yeah, by March 15th.
154
155   JF:     Right.
156
157   DV: I think we’re very open to having a thoughtful conversation about how the system for
158   inducting teachers, and credentialing them, and giving them permanent status – how that’s all
159   handled. Because there are a lot of problems right now, and we’re working on it.
160
161   JF:    So would you be open to, say, two years, and you can extend it to three, if you feel that
162   teacher is not ready after two?
163
164   DV: I think what I would be open to is giving people the opportunity to argue it, and to debate
165   it; because, really, CTA is driven by our State Council of Education. That’s our policy-making
166   body. A couple of our standing committees have a lot of purview here. Teacher evaluation and
167   academic freedom is one of them. Credentials and professional development is one of them. And
168   so it would take recommendations from those committees arguing on the floor of council to
169   really give us a position. My job as president is to make sure that process unfolds in a timely
170   manner.
171

      TOP ED Interview with Dean Vogel, June 10, 2011                                                  Page 4
172   JF:     Let’s talk about financing and money in California, and let me preface [that] by saying,
173   CTA has certainly been called one of the most powerful players in Sacramento, if not the [most
174   powerful], and yet California remains, by various measures, one of the least funded per student
175   in the nation. So is that a reflection on CTA’s effectiveness? Or is it that people don’t understand
176   the way finances work? How do you explain that?
177
178   DV: Yeah, yeah. I’d say incredible stretch to extrapolate the downward spiral of the economy
179   to the effectiveness of CTA, because I know you’re not saying that, you know, we were
180   complicit with the downfall of the housing market, or the, you know, the nonsense on Wall
181   Street.
182
183   JF:     No. It was lower. It was the least funded before the recession
184
185   DV: Right, right. But the predicament is this. We need more money in the General Fund, and I
186   think the citizens of California are really starting to come to an understanding of the
187   infrastructure needs of communities, and its public education, police and fire protection,
188   transportation infrastructure, health and human services. All of those components support the
189   communities.
190
191   And part of the problem in California is the tax structure that we currently have isn’t necessarily
192   designed to give communities that kind of support, especially when the majority of people have
193   much more of the tax burden than the wealthiest among us, or some of the big corporations, and I
194   think we’ve got to – we’ve got to be bold enough to say things out loud, like we’ve got to look at
195   the tax structure. We’ve got to start having a conversation around tax fairness. We’ve got to start
196   talking to one another about how should it really be if what – if what government is about is
197   supporting the needs of communities, and supporting the infrastructure needs of communities.
198   And way you fund that is through the tax structure. Should there be a time when we have a
199   thoughtful conversation about what that really means?
200
201   JF:     But could it also be that people are not confident that that money will be used effectively
202   and efficiently?
203
204   DV:     Right. I think that’s all part of the conversation.
205
206   JF:     Particularly as it relates to schools, how does that –
207
208   DV: We have a real difficult time in the last, what, 10-15 years, in this state, in this country, of
209   just having the kind of argument and debate that you need to have to really, fully vet issues
210   without personalizing it, or making it a highly-politically-charged thing.
211
212   I believe it doesn’t matter whether you’re the most progressive Democrat, or the most
213   conservative Republican, or anywhere in between there. You know, you have basically the same
214   needs, you know? You know, you want your community to be viable. You want an education

      TOP ED Interview with Dean Vogel, June 10, 2011                                               Page 5
215   system that’s going to support your kids. We don’t talk very much about how do we make that
216   happen. We spend too much time arguing partisan political issues that are irrelevant, and I think
217   one of the things the California Teachers Association can do, because we are teachers, is that we
218   can help bring people together, and we can help people start having to have these conversations.
219
220   JF:     Well, one of the things about California is particularly education funding, Proposition 98.
221   Is very confusing for people who don’t study it every day to understand how it’s funded, where
222   the money comes from. It’s really not based on what a kid’s needs are. And one of the bills
223   before the Legislature now is Assemblywoman Julia Brownley’s AB18, which would basically
224   simplify, provide more flexibility, and perhaps head towards a weighted student formula in
225   which more money would be provided for English learners and low-income children.
226
227   Now CTA has taken a position against that, and could you explain why? And explain what it is
228   that CTA is looking for in finance reform?
229
230   DV: First of all, I think it’s important that we have this conversation around Prop 98, because
231   that’s one of the things we do, is we spend a good deal of time saying that we’ve got to protect
232   the integrity of Prop 98, and the viability of Prop 98. Remember, Prop 98 is over 20 years old,
233   and it was written to kind of protect public education while we were trying to mitigate the
234   impacts of Prop 13. So an attempt to look at public-education funding, namely Prop 98, and try
235   to fix it, we think that’s probably a good idea.
236
237   In fact, we established [an] education-funding work group two years ago to do that very thing.
238   The problem with this particular bill, and I think Assemblymember Brownley has a good heart,
239   and I think she’s trying to do the right thing. It’s just that when you do things fast, because of the
240   urgency of the situation, you don’t have nearly the time you need to fully vet the idea, and the
241   unintended consequences of the action really haven’t been explored fully. So we’re nervous
242   about what can happen when you move so quickly.
243
244   JF:    Okay. Well, Dean, I wish we had more time. We have two years to talk, and I welcome
245   you back, and we’ll continue these conversations, and best of luck leading CTA.
246
247   DV:     Thank you, John. Thank you very much.




      TOP ED Interview with Dean Vogel, June 10, 2011                                                  Page 6

								
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