Posted in JerseyJazzman, NPR, Teaching Career

Teachers! THINK Before You Vent

More and more teachers are speaking out on public education issues. Jersey Jazzman has this warning/reminder:

Teachers: Your Work Email Is a Public Record

Teachers, I thank you for reading this blog. And I am always happy to hear from you. But remember:

Emails from your work email account are public records. Which is why I don’t respond to emails sent from school district addresses.

And any email traffic over a district network can be monitored – even if it is your private email account.

Just saying…

Comment #1 reminds teachers that you are still subject to open records laws if you use corporation equipment, even if you’re using your own, personal, web-based email — or other — accounts.

More information about a similar topic is the question of using social media and discussing your work. Listen to NPR’s Talk of the Nation from February 19.

Social Media And Work: Is It Ever OK To Complain Online?

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Public Ed, Teaching Career

Teaching in a Hostile World

Bad teachers have apparently taken over American education. At least that’s the natural conclusion one could make from the claims of politicians, pundits and policy makers. “We love good teachers, but the bad teachers are ruining America.” This is the standard reason used for the anti-union policies of governors like Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and Chris Christie and their friends in state legislatures around the country. Lest I appear partisan, I remind you that Arne Duncan and his boss, Barack Obama cheered when the entire staff of Central Falls HS in Central Falls RI were fired. The quote I have at the top of this blog by candidate Barack Obama (2008) should tell you where I stand. He turned his back on America’s public schools and teachers once he got our votes. I’m bipartisan in my disdain for politicians because…

Educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators, public education, or teachers unions.

Is it any wonder that educators feel attacked in the America of 2013?

Why So Many More Teachers Hate Their Jobs Now

Many teachers are unhappy with their jobs right now. That shouldn’t come as a shock, but a recent nationwide survey from the MetLife Foundation just confirmed this sentiment.

What is surprising about the survey’s results, however, is how much teachers’ job satisfaction has plummeted in just the past three years.

And if you’re thinking the numbers are primarily a result of merit pay, increased accountability or teacher union-oriented laws, the survey’s authors suggest there’s much more to the story.

It’s been my contention for the last few years that politicians, pundits and policy makers have targeted teachers for a couple of reasons…one of which is to deflect the responsibility for the growing number of children living in poverty. The issues involving low achievement in American schools have a lot to do with the social conditions of the country. As the number of children living in poverty grows and the economic achievement gap grows, the failure of our leaders to reduce poverty becomes an issue. They blame teachers and public schools in order to deflect their own responsibility and failure. The small number of bad teachers out there didn’t create the conditions of poverty which afflicts nearly one-fourth of our children.

Putting Teachers Last

The only real failure here are those blinded by their own political agendas and unable to recognize how amazing many of our teachers are. I’ve witnessed teachers give their whole life, day and night, to their students. To call these heroes a failure is a disgrace.

The only education reform we need is a reform of the way we look at the classroom.

It’s also apparent that experience, training, and educational background don’t matter. Anyone who ever attended school can apparently be considered an expert in education. Take three (please!) for example…

Michelle Rhee taught for three years…an entire career compared to some “reformers.” This, after 5 weeks of training. That’s the extent of her experience, yet she continues to pontificate about what makes a good school…a good teacher…and good education policy. To paraphrase a famous basketball coach, “I have forgotten more about teaching, students and educational policy than Rhee ever knew.”

Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, has no education qualifications. None. He never taught. He never attended public schools. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t think qualifications count.

Bill Gates…a very bright student who attended public schools for 6 years till his parents put him in a private school…whereupon he made his mark in technology skills…dropping out of college to become a billionaire. No education training there, either. Money talks. Just because you made a lot of money from your computer and marketing skills, Bill, doesn’t mean you know what it takes to educate children.

You don’t get legal advice from your doctor…or dental advice from your attorney…

Try this instead…from an actual teacher. Check out the top ten. I encourage experienced and trained teachers reading this to make your own list…

Experienced Teachers Are Worthless…

So what makes me the teacher I am today (and will become), in order, and which had the most positive impact on my abilities as a teacher:

  1. Experience
  2. Help/knowledge/wisdom of veteran teachers
  3. Retired teachers (Thanks Roger 🙂 )
  4. Content understanding (given both educationally and through experience)
  5. Fellowship with other teachers
  6. Fellowship with other new teachers
  7. Feedback from students
  8. Advisers/mentors (Thanks Lynn and Herb)
  9. Constructively critical administrators (thanks Bill & Jim)
  10. Educational background
  11. A decent lunch
  12. Petting my cat when I get home
  13. Coffee
  14. Other teachers
  15. Bad days (you can learn a lot when everything goes wrong)
  16. A good night’s sleep
  17. A drink with fellow teachers
  18. Finding an extra dollar bill in my coat pocket so I can buy a pop for lunch
  19. Sleeping on the couch in the lounge (if you have a couch….or a lounge)
  20. Opening a can of tuna
  21. Controlling/Policy-minded administrators
  22. Watching anti-education documentaries
  23. Listening to political speeches about education
  24. Paying taxes
  25. Spending my own money on classroom supplies that will be reimbursed
  26. Spending my own money on basic classroom supplies that won’t be reimbursed
  27. BS portfolio making
  28. Educational Standards (state, district or “common” core)
  29. District overlords/Political-bureaucratic stooges
  30. Thinking about my retirement plan

Teachers often feel afraid to speak out. This is because retaliation is real. I have seen principals and superintendents go after teachers for no educational reason whatsoever. I have sat in meetings with teachers who were being belittled and badgered by their principals. I have watched as central office staff had to rein in principals who were so obviously destructive to teachers that parents were beginning to see it. I have seen superintendents, and central office administrators make life so difficult for teachers — good teachers, award winning teachers — that they left the system or quit teaching altogether. This is the reason that unions are important.

It’s important for teachers to stand up to those bullies…as well as the bullies in the media, legislative houses and executive offices. Not many teachers do…it’s not smart in terms of job security. However…it is becoming more and more necessary.

Why I Am Not Anonymous

Teachers need to stand up and speak out about the realities of education. If they don’t, then who will? Our current system is being run by people with no educational background (Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and others).

It’s time to get these amateurs out of the education business. Parents, students and teachers shouldn’t have untrained pontificators telling them what to do.

Proof: Kindergarten Teachers Know How to Fix the Schools

Be careful what you assess because it will drive your instruction. When we place such high pressure on standardized test scores – we are going to force everyone to teach to the test.

What if the test will not get students ready for life or academic success? A, B, C, D multiple choice questions are not measuring authentic life skills. We all know people who test well who lack skills in other areas.

Currently, I spend 75% of my instructional time testing or preparing for testing. My students are 5 years old and I only see them 2 hours a day. It’s too much. I’m not even teaching anymore.

I love the following article. I love the fact that some of the signatories on the letter to Arne Duncan teach at the University of Chicago Lab School, his elementary and high school alma mater.

Open letter to Arne Duncan from Chicago teachers

Instead of relying on standardized tests, we believe that the best way to pursue higher standards in reading, writing, and speaking skills is to develop standardized and widely accepted rubrics for assessment and allow teachers to assess their students with these rubrics.

We are very concerned with the extent to which current educational policies have embraced what John Dewey would call “instrumental rationality” in seeking solutions that can be statistically measured. We are currently seeing a national backlash against such measurements from parents, teachers, and administrators. These statistical measures merely confirm the very real social gaps between the haves and the have-nots in American education. (For a review of the literature see http://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/reardon%20whither%20opportunity%20-%20chapter%205.pdf).

This is from The Widening Academic Achievement Gap Between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations referred to above.

The achievement gap between children from high and low income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income achievement gap has been growing for at least fifty years,

Last weekend teachers, parents, and concerned citizens from four states gathered in Fort Wayne, Indiana to talk about ideas and strategies for improving and supporting public schools. Join us. Speak out. Redirect public education away from privatization and the “business model” promoted by self-serving “reformers” and return it to the public.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Article Medleys, Corp Interest, Corporate Charters, IN Gen.Assembly, Teaching Career, Testing

2013 Medley #4

The Profession of Education,
Charters, Indiana, Testing.

THE PROFESSION OF EDUCATION

This past week saw the release of the 2013 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. I wrote about the results as did others across the educational and political spectrum. First, the actual report…

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher

Principals’ satisfaction with their jobs in the public schools has decreased nine percentage points since it was last measured in 2008. In that same period, teacher satisfaction has dropped precipitously by 23 percentage points, including a five-point decrease in the last year, to the lowest level it has been in the survey in 25 years. A majority of teachers report that they feel under great stress at least several days a week, a significant increase from 1985 when this was last measured.

Principals and teachers with low job satisfaction report higher levels of stress than do other educators and are more likely to work in high-needs schools. Less satisfied principals are more likely to find it challenging to maintain an academically rigorous environment and an adequate supply of effective teachers in their schools, while less satisfied teachers are more likely to be working in schools where budgets and time for professional development and collaboration have decreased in the last 12 months.

John Kuhn, in his piece, used a phrase which I love. He said…

…the Church of Reform chooses to place teacher-bashing into their book of orthodox behaviors…

His article however, is much more valuable as a call to arms for teachers.

Circling the Wagons

We are often accused of defending the status quo, but really what we defend is our dignity and worth, not just as teachers but as people. As contributing members of the American experiment. We defend our integrity. The insults that pour from the ivory tower edu-minds as freely as the pollution their patrons dump in our rivers isn’t inconsequential to us. It comes across as a personal attack. And it makes us lean even more on one another. No one understands us, but us.

When they flippantly decry the quality of instruction–and decline at every opportunity to critique the quality of school funding equity or the legislative provision (or lack thereof) of social supports for learning–when they pooh-pooh the quality of the American teacher as the isolated source of all our problems, they are advertising to the general public that my people are bad people. The worst people. We are a threat to the future safety of our nation, per Condi and Joel. Teachers are bad Americans. Teachers are takers.

We may reply, “Hey, the business-first public policies adopted by our leaders are not irrelevant here. They are counterproductive to the academic well-being of our most vulnerable learners. For every step we lead a learner from poverty, our social policies drag him or her two steps back.”

But when we try and make that point, we are shushed and labeled as excuse-makers. The dialogue between the most hostile of public school demolitionists and the most defensive of educators is similar to a dialogue between an abuser and his victim: “You’re such a whiner,” as we point to the yellowing bruise from the last black eye we received.

Those who would fix us should walk a mile in our loafers and see how it feels to “take” what we take on a daily basis.

Walt Gardner expresses the frustration of many education professionals…and includes the reminder that teachers don’t work in a vacuum. The low morale of teachers affects students.

Teacher Morale Plummets

What’s given short shrift is the effect that low teacher morale has on students. Let’s not forget that no one goes into teaching for fame, fortune or power. Those who choose teaching as a career – not as a resume builder – genuinely want to help young people be all they can possibly be. They don’t always succeed, but they spend enormous energy and time trying. As a result, the last thing they deserve is unrelenting bashing. And that’s precisely what they’re getting. I liken the matter to kicking a person when the person is down. Burnout is slow to develop, but when it does it undermines the ability of even the most dedicated teacher to teach students.

Reformers are quick to respond that teachers have plenty of time to recover. They trot out the usual factors: long summer vacations, short teaching days etc. Of course, few, if any, reformers have ever taught in a public school, or if they did, it was decades ago when conditions were entirely different. I guarantee that they wouldn’t last a week in front of a class of students now. I say that because teaching was once fun. That’s no longer the case. When teachers’ jobs largely depend on posting ever increasing standardized test scores, the atmosphere in the classroom is unavoidably altered for the worse. Survival becomes the No. 1 concern.

CHARTERS*

I add a disclaimer at the bottom of a blog entry whenever I include something about charters. Not all charters are bad. The original idea behind charters, as described in Diane Ravitch’s book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System is a vision of a school where

…groups of teachers should be able to run their own schools within regular schools and to pursue innovative ways of educating disaffected students.

There are places where charter schools are a positive force in the education of children, but the corporate takeover of public schools using public funds where profit is the bottom line, is not what charters were supposed to be.

The profit motive, so lauded by privatizers, has a tendency to put students a distant fourth, behind the stockholders, public relations, and the cutting of corners to increase profit.

In order to meet their goals of high test scores many charters will skim students. Valerie Strauss writes,

How charter schools choose desirable students

Charter schools educate about 5 percent of K-12 students in the country, but the sector is growing and gets a great deal of financial and public attention from school reformers. The charter school-dominant Recovery School District of New Orleans is repeatedly praised as being a model for how charter schools can transform a city’s public education system — though those who do the praising ignore the fact that the charters in that district are performing at a very low level.

Strauss reported on the following article from Reuters.

Special Report: Class Struggle – How charter schools get students they want

Among the barriers that Reuters documented:

  • Applications that are made available just a few hours a year.
  • Lengthy application forms, often printed only in English, that require student and parent essays, report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records.
  • Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even though such documents cannot be required under federal law.
  • Mandatory family interviews.
  • Assessment exams.
  • Academic prerequisites.
  • Requirements that applicants document any disabilities or special needs. The U.S. Department of Education considers this practice illegal on the college level but has not addressed the issue for K-12 schools.

INDIANA

Last November Glenda Ritz defeated “reformer’s” poster-boy Tony Bennett in the race for the Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Unfortunately, the 1.3 million voters who supported Ritz didn’t make a similar change in the state legislature. Republican legislators, who overwhelmingly supported Bennett in his quest to privatize Indiana’s schools, were elected in even greater numbers and now own a Super Majority in both houses of the state General Assembly. The House Education Committee, led by district 91 (southwest of Indianapolis) representative Robert Behning, has been especially zealous in its quest to remove the “public” from “public schools.”

Indiana officials to Ritz voters: Drop dead

// House Bill 1003 would expand Indiana’s private-school voucher program
// House Bill 1358 is a “parent trigger” bill
// Several bills are being considered that would reduce Ritz’s authority as state superintendent or transfer functions and programs involving education from the Department of Education, which Ritz heads, to state agencies controlled by the governor.

The Corporate Takeover of Indianapolis Public Schools

The Mayor’s office is slowly taking powers away from other branches of government. For example, they now have oversight of four former IPS schools taken over under Tony Bennett’s watch.

There is legislation pending that would allow those schools to become “independent” schools at the end of the takeover period…

There is also legislation which would remove the involvement/oversight of the city county council in approving new Charter schools.

Another bill takes a funding source from public schools (proceeds from auctioned properties due to non-payment of taxes) and gives it to Mayor-sponsored charter schools.

Other legislation forces the sale or lease of closed public schools to Charter schools and other private entities.

All of this collusion is no accident…

Sour Grapes — Again!

Another measure approved on party lines casts a blow on the state teacher unions, already battered by anti-collective bargaining laws approved two years ago. The latest measure prohibits school districts from allowing voluntary payroll deductions for union dues…No local school district officials spoke in support of the dues amendment. They currently deduct annuity payments, United Way contributions, pension payments and more from teacher paychecks. The bill would not affect those deductions.

The only purpose for this amendment is to damage the teachers unions. The only reason for adding it is spite.

Dan Carpenter: Actions by his allies make Tony Bennett’s election loss a mulligan

The aptly named “parent trigger” bill is of a piece with a spate of “reform” legislation — expansion of vouchers for private schools, dropping licensing requirements for local school superintendents, diminishing the role of the state superintendent on state panels — aimed at two basic prizes: consolidation of GOP control over the multibillion-dollar public education system, and diversion of those dollars to private entities unencumbered by professional credentialing and collective bargaining.

Reform-weary teachers say state leaders missing the mark

• The testing process now outweighs the overall benefit of the student
• Problems in many students’ home lives continue to go unaddressed, making it harder and harder for youth to concentrate in school, no matter what reform strategy is employed.
• The heavy-handed, at times arrogant and tunnel-vision approach some politicians have displayed toward education has greatly damaged the morale of teachers, some of whom said they feel like giving up and applying for jobs as greeters at department stores.

TESTING

The bias described in this article could be also be called an economic bias. Tests are designed for the dominant culture. Some test makers work hard to remove bias, but no matter how hard they try, some inequity seeps in. I don’t try to argue that all tests are useless or that all tests are bad, but they definitely shouldn’t be used for high stakes decisions.

Minority Testing Bias Persists

Education equity should be the norm, but from the makeup of standardized tests to the circumstances surrounding the lives of the students taking them, this equity remains elusive. Fiction-wise, it didn’t exist on “Good Times” in 1974 or when Diff’rent Strokes presented the same theme four years later, and it isn’t a reality for some minority students today. If schools are to test — and reasoning for that alone is debatable — then districts cannot expect fair evaluation when circumstances are different for each child. For many children, the burden of life alone is often so great that their primary goal is not a quality education, but day-to-day survival. And culturally, when academic outcomes are averaged across race and class, the achievement gap grows even greater.

CORPORATE “REFORM”

Corporate “reformers” like Bill Gates, whose only qualification as an education expert is his money, constantly harp on the “failure” of America’s public schools and its teachers (read: the inability of schools to solve the problem of a nearly 25% child poverty rate), support the overuse and misuse of tests to evaluate schools, school systems and teachers, and are in favor of “teacher-proof” curricula which anyone can deliver. In Indiana, for example, one no longer needs to have a degree in education to teach…one no longer needs to be a teacher first before becoming a principal or superintendent. The profession of education, according to the “reformers,” doesn’t need to be a profession at all.

On the other hand, the wealthy supporters of school “reform” like Bill Gates (and Mitt Romney and Barack Obama) make sure that their own children attend schools with highly qualified professionals. They send their children to schools which focus on learning, not testing. The dumbing down of the American Public School System by the insane obsession with test preparation and testing is supported by our elected officials in our states and in Washington D.C. Where did people like Gates, Rhee, Obama, Romney, Duncan and their colleagues in the corporate “reform” movement go to school? Where did they send their children? Do Gates’ children go to public schools? Did Obama attend a struggling public school with no school library in Chicago? Did Romney send his children to public schools? Did Arne Duncan ever set foot in a public school as a student or teacher? The answer to all those questions is, of course, no. Yet they feel qualified to dictate to the rest of us what schools should be like for our children…

…and we let them.

A Kindergarten Teacher Stands Up to Bill Gates

Expert educators, including teachers, as well as students and families, understand that these undemocratic, and unproven practices are extremely harmful to the students that you say you want to help. Sadly, this seems to have little or no influence on you to stop and consider that perhaps it is time that you respect the educators and listen to the experts.

Perhaps your wealth and influence could be put to better use and have greater results in real solutions to our public schools, if your programs were designed to function like the schools you send your children to, in collaboration with teachers, parents and students. This could help you understand that public schools are not factories, where children are viewed as commodities; that our children are not to be used as guinea pigs to satisfy the greed in the lottery style profit making schools. We know that certainly these are not the kind of schools where you would ever consider sending your own children.

So here is a challenge for you, if indeed you are sincere that the reforms you are proposing for our children are the answer. Why not try these reforms with the schools that educate the children of the rich and politically influential? Why not take the children in the schools where you, the President and the rich send their children; trade places with the children in the schools of the poor, where your education experiments are being implemented.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Corp Interest, John Kuhn, poverty, Teaching Career, Valerie Strauss

Teachers’ Low Job Satisfaction – Let the Bashing Continue

THE IMAGE

Bloggers, pundits, and news organizations jumped all over the latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher released recently.

As one might expect, the supporters of the so-called “reform” movement found the survey to be indicative of the laziness, incompetency, selfishness, etc. of America’s teachers. At the aptly named, Dropout Nation, we read,

The Only Useful Point from MetLife’s Teacher Survey: We Need to Train School Leaders Better

There’s also the differences be [sic] a newly-hired teacher, a longtime veteran heading into retirement, or even a mid-career teacher . For the latter two, in particular, the changes to the profession brought upon by systemic reform — including the use of objective student performance data in teacher evaluations — can be quite a cause for dissatisfaction, even if the changes being wrought are beneficial both for kids and their younger colleagues…The reality is that the teaching profession is changing — and must change — in order to help all students get a high-quality education. Which means that those in the profession and aspiring teachers coming into it must have the talent necessary to deal with the sophisticated, hard work it always was (as well as becoming). And not every teacher currently working in the profession will want to adjust to these realities.

I agree that the job of the professional educator is changing…and change is hard. However, change is but one cause of dissatisfaction. Lack of resources or lack of respect can also make someone unhappy in their work. Furthermore, not all change is good, and some veteran teachers might recognize inappropriate or damaging change and raise an objection. We call that the voice of experience. Experience is sometimes a good thing.

Note the suggestion that veteran teachers are against or afraid of “Objective student performance data” — an obvious reference to standardized tests. Anyone who has ever spent time teaching in a real public school classroom (unlike most of the so-called “reformers”) knows that standardized tests are not necessarily objective. In addition, those who know and understand tests, measurements and statistics, understand that standardized tests were developed to judge students (however poorly they might do that) and are inappropriate tools to use to measure teachers. In simple language, tests should be used to evaluate that for which they were developed. Using a standardized achievement test developed for student assessment to evaluate teachers is like getting an x-ray to check for kidney disease. You’ll get some results but it’s not what you need.

This attitude is also present in responses to articles about the survey. In an Answer Sheet article, U.S. teachers’ job satisfaction craters — report, Valerie Strauss writes,

It’s no wonder so many teachers have low morale. They say that modern school reform — with its emphasis on getting rid of bad teachers, assessing teachers by student standardized test scores, and rewriting tenure and collective bargaining laws — essentially demonizes them.

A comment which expresses the same feeling as Dropout, though with quite a bit less thought behind it, is one from captclamdigger…whose name is apparently a reference to his or her level of achievement.

Boo-freaking-hoo, they feel stress and don’t love their jobs. That’s why they get paid and why it’s called work. They have jobs where they don’t get fired unless they cause a major, major screw up and they have a retirement plan and solid benefits.

It’s called real life.

Another comment from Theplantruth [sic] is only slightly more rational.

Really my heart bleeds for the over paid glorified baby sitter’s that continues to receive raises of 5% annually in the school district that I pay taxes too. I guest getting every weekend, holiday , and summers off isn’t enough. Or the Monday – Friday daylight schedule is so terrible too. That school teachers benefits are costing them an arm and a leg vs the rest of the national work force. No I believe that out of any profession that school public school teacher should be happy with what they got and quit whining about their demoralized levels of stress from work. They got it really good.

[Too many errors in the above to note each separately. Apparently Theplantruth has trouble with punctuation, sentence fragments, and noun/verb agreement as well as facts.]

Given the obvious lack of knowledge in the above two comments about what teachers actually do and what the job of teaching is actually like, I understand their anger. If I was working every day at a difficult job, clam digging, for example, and came home each night stinking of clams, turned on the news and listened to someone tell me that teachers were overpaid, only worked 6 hours a day for 9 months of the year, could never be fired and were only in it for the money, I’d be angry, too. The fact that teachers’ jobs are nothing like that doesn’t matter. In my low status, low wage job as a clam digger, I am angry that I don’t have it better and I WANT to be angry at someone.

Politicians, pundits and policy makers are expert at using that anger, and turning it towards someone else instead of themselves. Here are a couple of illustrations…

THE REALITY

Let’s look at another comment, this one from Rubytunes…

The most telling part of the teacher survey was that those who teach in challenging neighborhoods feel the most stress. Why? Because they and their students are the ones getting inundated with constant ongoing test prep, more meaningless meetings, more tests of all kinds (weekly benchmarks, quarterly benchmarks, pre-tests, post-tests, state tests, grad tests, end of unit tests, etc., etc., etc.), constant endless nitpicking data analysis, parent initiatives, all in the vain effort to achieve 100% proficiency or be deemed a failing school. The message clearly is: Don’t go to work in a high needs area because this will be your life!

The “reformers” don’t want anyone to bring up the fact that poverty is a factor. They call it an “excuse” and deny that it matters. The fact, as Rubytunes writes, that teachers in the “most challenged neighborhoods” are the most at stress is due to a myriad of social and economic factors. Students, their parents or guardians, and communities in poverty all have issues that need to be dealt with. School systems and states often don’t provide the necessary resources to counteract the damage done by serious community problems.

It’s much easier, as the so-called “reformers” have illustrated over the last several decades, to blame the teachers. Not only do they have a scapegoat in teachers, but they can use the social and economic problems which they’ve left untreated as an excuse to privatize public education, get more money for private schools, and/or publicly sponsored, privately run for-profit charters*, and leaving the children with more serious problems to languish in the failing public schools.

John Kuhn, on of my favorite superintendents (Perrin-Whitt CISD, Perrin, TX) also wrote about the MetLife survey [ and the first sentence in the paragraphs below is a gem!] He said…

Circling the Wagons

The American teacher stands on the front lines of poverty and inequity that our fellow Americans refuse to acknowledge, on the front lines of the real social condition of our nation–not the advertised one–and we stand together. When we look over our shoulders, there’s no one there backing us up. The rest of the army is off pretending there is no fight to be had here, no excuses to be made, no hardships to decry, no supply lines to worry about, that things in American society are just hunky-dory outside of the fact that the teachers just don’t care enough…

What the reformers need to know about teachers is that we are in this together, and they’re on the outside. They are not one with us. They’re interlopers. They aren’t change agents–they’re foreign agents. They aren’t leaders. They are cheerleaders for the business lobby, not for the child. When we look at one another, we see people who strive and try and cry for kids, who face them and embrace them on a daily basis. When we see the most hostile of the reformers, we see pontificators and armchair critics. When the Church of Reform chooses to place teacher-bashing into their book of orthodox behaviors, they declare teachers to be their enemy. And they have their wish. We will be their enemy, but we will be allies to one another to the end. We will circle our wagons.

Yes, we’re demoralized. But, unfortunately for those who would cast us aside, we are still very, very united. And we are the last people in America to know the good that we do, and to disbelieve the lies that are told about us to an unsuspecting public.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, Teachers Unions

Sour Grapes — Again!

On Sunday I wrote the following

The politicians of the supermajority (legislators and the governor) are doing everything they can to build more private and privately run schools using public dollars, and destroy the public schools because

  • they are still angry at Glenda Ritz (read: 1.3 million voters) for defeating Tony and are too small to let it go…

As if purposely trying to prove my point, the Republicans in the Indiana House have added insult to injury.

Another dark day for Indiana’s public schools

Another measure approved on party lines casts a blow on the state teacher unions, already battered by anti-collective bargaining laws approved two years ago. The latest measure prohibits school districts from allowing voluntary payroll deductions for union dues…No local school district officials spoke in support of the dues amendment. They currently deduct annuity payments, United Way contributions, pension payments and more from teacher paychecks. The bill would not affect those deductions.

The only purpose for this amendment is to damage the teachers unions. The only reason for adding it is spite.

It isn’t difficult for school corporations to withhold teacher union dues for teachers. It doesn’t add time or cost the local school corporation (or the state) any money. Employers all over the country already withhold money for lots of things…adding one more isn’t a problem. Furthermore, it’s voluntary. Teachers don’t have to join teachers unions. If they do, they don’t have to pay their dues through withholding. They can pay in a lump sum if they choose. The ISTA even has a way to pay monthly through their web site. There isn’t a single reason for adding this restriction to law other than to damage the union. This is union busting at its most blatant.

Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett blamed teachers unions for Bennett’s defeat in the last election. This amendment is simply sour grapes.

This has nothing to do with education of children. It’s only meant to insult teachers and their professional organizations. The writers of this amendment will go to any lengths, it seems, to show their disdain for the teachers of Indiana.

It’s like a petulant child on the playground throwing stones at someone who hurt his feelings. It’s time for the supermajority’s leadership in the Indiana General Assembly to discipline their rude and disrespectful children.

Also see:

Teachers decry union-dues move

“This is being done, in my opinion, to do nothing but stifle their representative voice, as other legislation that has been passed in recent history,” said Rick Muir, president of the Indiana Federation of Teachers.

Teachers, unions cry foul over legislators’ surprise move to prevent dues collections

“It is another anti-union attack. It does nothing to improve schools,” said ISTA President Nate Schnellenberg. “I am disappointed that these anti-teacher attacks continue. It takes away a teacher’s right to decide how they want to pay dues.”

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, Parent Trigger, Tony Bennett, vouchers

Is it Cynicism if it’s True?

BENNETT’S LEGACY CONTINUES IN THE INDIANA LEGISLATURE…

Even though Glenda Ritz, supported by 1.3 million voters, took over the reins of the State Department of Education, Tony Bennett and his allies are running the show. They couldn’t win the office with the votes of the people, so they’re doing their work using the supermajority (which, I must admit, they did win handily) in the state General Assembly.

Bennett’s former chief of staff, Todd Huston, a freshman Representative from Fishers, is contributing to the dirty work by pushing the so-called Parent Trigger bill through the legislature. The bill allows 51% of parents of a public school to give away the school to a private corporation…overruling the democratically elected school board and any public oversight. In August, I wrote,

The parent trigger bills don’t give parents more control. They give parents less control. They allow 51% of current school parents to give away the public school to a charter operator. What happens in two years if 51% of the parents want to take the school back for the public schools? The parent trigger bills don’t allow for that. Once the schools have been converted they’re stuck with what they get. No parental rights. No public oversight.

Diane Ravitch put it this way in an entry of Bridging Differences from 2011. She wrote

To me, a public school is a public trust. It doesn’t belong to the students who are currently enrolled in it or their parents or to the teachers who currently teach in it. All of them are part of the school community, and that community needs to collaborate to make the school better for everyone. Together, they should be able to redesign or create or discontinue programs and services. But collaboration is not the same as ownership. The school belongs to the public, to the commonwealth. It belongs to everyone who ever attended it (and their parents) and to future generations. It is part of the public patrimony, not an asset that can be closed or privatized by its current constituents.

The idea of a public trust means nothing to the elitist Huston…no more than it did to his handler, Bennett. And it’s not just Huston who’s doing Bennett’s work in his absence. The legislature has mounted an all out attack on the public schools (and their teachers) in Indiana.

A SPATE OF LEGISLATION

Writing about Huston and his ties to Bennett (and to the College Board, the “the nonprofit but still immensely lucrative standardized testing empire”), Dan Carpenter at Indystar.com wrote

The aptly named “parent trigger” bill is of a piece with a spate of “reform” legislation — expansion of vouchers for private schools, dropping licensing requirements for local school superintendents, diminishing the role of the state superintendent on state panels — aimed at two basic prizes: consolidation of GOP control over the multibillion-dollar public education system, and diversion of those dollars to private entities unencumbered by professional credentialing and collective bargaining.

I would also add, reducing the influence of the Superintendent of Public Instruction…since she’s a member of the opposition party.

Carpenter calls the parent trigger “aptly named”, since it allows 51% of parents to kill a school. Trouble is…it’s rarely parents who start the parent trigger. More often it’s the charter edupreneurs who want the money who get it going.

Take a look at that list from Carpenter again…not one of the items being pushed by the supermajority in the state legislature has a proven record of helping students. Why are they doing what they’re doing then?

Do they really believe that vouchers improve the public as well as the private schools? Have they taken a look at the research from Milwaukee? Apparently not.

Do they actually believe that reducing the qualifications for professionals (in essence “de-professionalizing the profession”) will improve student learning? Apparently so.

Or maybe they JUST DON’T CARE…

…AND CORPORATE CHARTERS*

Another Bennett legacy, the state Charter School Board, makes it easier for charters to get start ups — or as the “reformers” call them, “Turnarounds.” In Fort Wayne, for example, Ball State University decided to pull the charters on three schools…since their results were worse than the public schools from which they were intended to rescue children [sarcasm intended]. The state Charter School Board, in answer to absolutely no request from the citizens of Fort Wayne, finds it necessary to hold a hearing for a new charter to come to the city…with ties to…you guessed it…Tony Bennett.

Carpe Diem: Seize the tax dollars by Karen Francisco, Ft Wayne Journal Gazette

Carpe Diem’s [an Arizona-based charter company] ties to Indiana are through former state Superintendent Tony Bennett. He traveled to Arizona to visit the charter schools and apparently invited them to come to Indiana. Rather than seek a charter through Ball State or the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office, Carpe Diem won its charter from the newly established Indiana Charter School Board, created as an easier path for charter expansion.

Another name on the Fort Wayne Carpe Diem application is Robert Sommers, identified as the company’s CEO. But Sommers’ name surfaced Tuesday in this Education Week article, about the intriguing web of foundation and corporate interests linking Oklahoma, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education and Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi. Sommers apparently has been hired by Barresi as director of the state’s new CareerTech board.

Barresi’s a member of Chiefs for Change, which is headed by – wait for it, wait for it – Tony Bennett. A watchdog group, In the Public Interest, recently released public records detailing communications among education officials in six states, Bush’s foundation and corporate backers. The records, obtained through freedom of information requests, did not include Indiana, but numerous email records among the documents were addressed to Bennett and other top Indiana DOE officials.

It’s a fascinating tangle of past and present GOP officials, corporate CEOs, education reform foundations and more. Now, it appears to be seeking a toehold in a south Fort Wayne neighborhood. Imagine that, if you’ll pardon the pun.

[Re: “pardon the pun” — Imagine Schools are the charter holders for two of the Fort Wayne charters being revoked by Ball State U. See Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette article, Both Imagine schools plan to appeal loss of charters.]

CYNICISM

So what’s the purpose here? Is this just politics?

My cynical response is…yes. Politics and money.

The politicians of the supermajority (legislators and the governor) are doing everything they can to build more private and privately run schools using public dollars, and destroy the public schools because

  • they are still angry at Glenda Ritz (read: 1.3 million voters) for defeating Tony and are too small to let it go.
  • they are continuing the work of destroying the teachers unions in the state since unions are a) supportive of public school supporting politicians and b) the unions are made up of the people who actually work with students.
  • they are in the pockets of the people making money off privatization (or, alternatively, they are those people).
  • they are pandering to those who just want to simply do away with “gummint schools” because it’s “socialism.”
  • they are pandering to those religious groups who think that all public schools teach secular humanism, devil worship, and (gasp) sex education.

There’s a sixth reason…for those members of the supermajority in the legislature who are aware of what’s going on and would even like to help public schools.

  • they are scared of their party’s leadership in the legislature so they blindly do whatever they’re told.

Cynical? Yes. True? You can be the judge of that.

Before anyone accuses me of political party bashing…it’s not just Republicans. It might be that way in Indiana, but 1) in Illinois, for example, the Chicago Democrats have made it a point to abandon the struggling students in their city for privatization (see blogs of The Brothers Klonsky, Mike and Fred) and 2) the US Department of Education (and the executive branch of the US government) are among the strongest allies of the Gates/Broad/Rhee method of privatization (see HERE — all my posts about the damage done by Arne Duncan et al).

Below are a couple of things to look at…the first, another editorial comment about the bipartisan nature of privatization…and the second, the real crisis in the public schools in America.

Mr. Fitz comments on the election…

Melissa Harris-Perry makes it clear where the difficulties in America’s education really is. Let’s hold politicians, pundits and policy makers accountable for their failure to reduce the nation’s child poverty rate.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
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*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, Parent Trigger, Preschool, vouchers

The All-Out Attack on Public Schools in Indiana

Reposted from Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #113– February 13, 2013

Dear Friends,

The all-out attack on public schools continues unabated in the House Education Committee. Since last week:

  1. House Bill 1003, the enormous voucher expansion bill costing at least $47 million dollars and paying for vouchers for thousands of students currently in private schools, passed committee on a party line vote on Feb. 7th.
  2. House Bill 1004, described by the House leadership as the “Pre-Kindergarten voucher pilot program”, which funds preschool scholarships with state money for the first time but then entwines the bill with the voucher controversy by making these students eligible for K-12 vouchers without first trying out public schools, passed the committee 10-2 on Feb. 7th.
  3. House Bill 1358, the parent trigger bill which takes authority away from school boards over low performing schools and hands them over to an unelected cohort of parents if they petition to make them charter schools, passed the committee on Feb. 12th on a party line vote, 8-4.
  4. Now tomorrow’s meeting (Feb. 14th) will hear House Bill 1337, which would give the state new authority to dissolve the governing board of local school corporations as part of a gigantic rewrite of the famous Public Law 221. Such takeovers would be based on school letter grades, despite the consensus that has emerged in the Statehouse that the A-F system is flawed.
  5. Also scheduled for hearings tomorrow (Feb. 14th) are three bills I would dub the “Sour Grapes Election Bills” which cut the powers of Glenda Ritz to lead the state board (House Bill 1309), to co-chair the Education Roundtable (House Bill 1360) and to administer the voucher program (House Bill 1342). Senator Kruse said he would not cut the powers of Glenda Ritz, but no one in the House ever said that.
  6. As if that is not enough, a House Bill 1339 will be heard as well, postponed from Tuesday and the subject of great consternation by many over evaluation and labor issues.

It looks like “Cut Glenda’s Powers Day” in Rep. Behning’s committee, starting at 8:30 Thursday morning in Room 156-C.

Here are some details:

House Bill 1003 – Voucher Expansion (Click here for my testimony on HB 1003)

This is the worst bill for public school advocates, expanding payments for vouchers to $5500 each, when many public school administrators I talked to today only get $5200 to $5300 per child for their students. In the following year, minimum payments go up to $6500. This all adds up to over $47 million in new money for private schools, as I detailed in Vic’s Statehouse Notes #112.

HB 1003 is not scheduled for second reading amendments tomorrow, but it could be as early as Monday, Feb. 18th. If you keep pouring on your objections to House members, they will perhaps have to deal with many amendments and slow down the progress on this bill. Pour it on!

House Bill 1004 – Preschool Grants (Click here for my testimony on HB 1004)

HB 1004 is scheduled for second reading amendments tomorrow. It is likely an effort will be made to delete the final section of the bill which makes students getting preschool scholarships eligible for K-12 vouchers. Without this final “poison pill” feature, the bill provides new support for preschool education in Indiana, a reform that Gov. Daniels and Dr. Bennett completely ignored in their agenda. Rep. Behning explained that the final section linking the concept to vouchers was a direct request of Speaker Bosma.

House Bill 1358 – Parent Trigger (Click here for my testimony on HB 1358)

Rep. Huston, former Chief of Staff for Dr. Bennett, who sponsored HB 1357 to give local school boards more power in picking whoever they want for superintendent, also sponsored the parent trigger to take power away from local school boards when schools get a D or an F. If parents get 51% of parent signatures on a petition, they can turn the school over to a charter school operator. A fierce battle over this concept came in 2011, and the matter was settled in the charter school bill when the Senate gave the local school board the final say over the parent petition. Now Rep. Huston is bringing the battle back to give parents final authority based on a petition. Two speakers led off supportive testimony representing a California group called Parent Revolution. No one explained who paid their way to come to Indiana to testify. After lengthy testimony, the bill passed 8-4 on a party line vote.

House Bill 1337 – School Accountability and Turnaround Academies

I started reading this bill today thinking it was mostly the Turnaround Academy bill that never made it through the General Assembly last year. I totally underestimated the scope. This massive bill rewrites Public Law 221, the law passed in 1999 with bipartisan support which has been the guidepost for accountability in Indiana. After 14 years, Rep. Behning brings a radical new plan. Among other features:

  1. It gives the state authority to dissolve or merge local school corporations.
  2. It creates independent schools, a new creation for when turnaround academies have turned around.
  3. It removes “improvement” as the stated goal of PL 221, replacing it with “performance.”
  4. It requires science assessments to be included in high stakes school letter grade decisions by 2014-15.
  5. It allows students to be assessed in relation to peers (norm-referenced) by removing the well known language from PL 221: “Compare each school and each school corporation with its own prior performance and not to the performance of other schools or other corporations.”
  6. It focuses these vast new powers on school corporations and schools getting a D or an F, even though the current A-F system is clearly broken.

All those with a strong stomach should read the entire bill and prepare to defend local school boards from state takeover using a flawed A-F system.

The “Sour Grapes Election Bills”

More than 1.3 million Hoosiers voted for Glenda Ritz, more than for Gov. Pence. In December, over 10,000 signed a petition to honor her victory after Gov. Pence said at a press conference that her election would not change his education agenda. All of those voters and petition signers should go to work on House Bills 1309, 1360 and 1342. They all cut major powers of the State Superintendent in three different arenas. They are blatantly political efforts to change the powers she won in the election. All those who are outraged by these three bills should contact members of the House with your thoughts.

Contact House Education Committee Members

It is time to act, preferably before tomorrow morning’s hearing, but any time in the next few days. Please contact members of the House Education Committee:

Chairman: Representative Behning

Republican Members: Representatives Rhoads, Arnold, Burton, Clere, DeVon, Huston, Lucas, and Thompson

Democrat Members: Representatives Vernon Smith, Battles, Errington and VanDenburgh

Then contact your own Representative to express your thoughts about these crucial bills. Taken together, the bills in the House Education Committee since February 5th constitute a bigger attack on public education than the monumental 2011 agenda: vouchers that don’t just save money but pay for thousands already in private schools, state powers to dissolve local school boards, and dismantling the powers of the State Superintendent.

If you’ve had enough, you need to tell the members of the House, promptly and decisively.

Thanks for your efforts on behalf of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. I keep hearing reports that some public school supporters read these “Notes” with great interest but don’t translate that interest into joining ICPE. To keep our outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand in place, who testified this week in Ways and Means about the enormous fiscal cost of the voucher bill, we need all members from last year to renew and we need new members who support public education. Please join us!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information.

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.