Parent Trigger, Retention, Poverty.
THE PROFESSION OF EDUCATION
Teachers are getting tired of battling the corporate takeover of education. What goes on in classrooms around the country is being controlled more and more from the corporate offices of places like Pearson and McGraw-Hill. Teaching to the test is the norm, instead of the exception…and the big publishing companies are responsible for not only the tests, but supplementary materials which prep students for the tests.
School systems are being forced by state departments of education (who are being forced in turn, by the US DOE) to focus on test scores above all else. In the trenches, students and teachers spend ridiculous amounts of time testing. Less time is spent teaching…and much of the teaching time is devoted to test prep. The joy of learning is being replaced by a painful and damaging system of brain-stuffing that I can’t bring myself to call education or reform.
Teachers are pilloried in the press by politicians, pundits and policy makers who know nothing about education (see Argue with Some of the Logic?: The Expertise Gap, below). The myth of America’s failing public schools still persists (see PISA: It’s Poverty Not Stupid, below) despite the facts to the contrary. Charters* and vouchers are taking the public out of public education, despite the fact that they don’t improve the education of our children. Meanwhile 1/4 of America’s children live in poverty, the single most important out-of-school factor in academic achievement.
Here is yet another letter of resignation from a tired teacher printed recently in Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet Blog. In ‘I have had enough’ – veteran teacher tells school board, Abby Breaux writes,
If you think getting rid of experienced classroom teachers is the answer, then shame on you! It takes experienced teachers to help new, inexperienced teachers with the overwhelming burdens of classroom management, helping with background knowledge of the information being taught, and learning how to build relationships with the students and the community that these students come from. There is SO much more to teaching then getting in front of a class and giving a lesson!
Personally, I was hoping to teach for at least 30 years, but because of all these new evaluation policies, fear of retirement issues, and feeling constantly threatened that if I don’t do “this or that” I will lose my job, I and many others have had enough and feel the need to leave. I LOVE TEACHING and never thought this day would come. I love working with kids. You have basically pushed me and many excellent, effective teachers out of the education field or into the private sector with all of your useless paperwork and lack of follow through. I know I may get some “recoil” for what I am saying today, but what I am saying is the truth, and it is something that most teachers say and think every day. Many are afraid to speak up and this is something that I too have been holding in for years because of the same reason. Please, sit down with the CLASSROOM teachers and work with them. But above all, GO TO A CLASSROOM! Don’t choose a “favored, high scoring” school. Go to a struggling school and observe a classroom. Better yet, since you are supposed to be people of “service”, substitute in a classroom. Your eyes will be opened to how difficult it is to do this job on a daily basis.
THOSE WHO CAN, TEACH…
Would you trust your grocer to mend your clothes…your attorney to straighten your teeth…your doctor to write your will…or your insurance agent to remove your appendix? Why do we allow politicians with no educational expertise or experience to set education policy? Why isn’t the Secretary of Education an educator?
The education debate, specifically the education reform debate, currently confirms Gladwell’s concern because politicians with little or no educational expertise or experience control education policy and journalists with little or no educational expertise or experience report on both the claims made by those politicians and the education reports coming from think tanks and advocacy groups posing as scholars.
The list could be almost endless, but recent education reports on charter schools, for example, have all been represented inaccurately by the media—essentially since journalists tend to report on the think tank press release instead of analyzing the claims or quality of the study itself. (See Baker on the misrepresented KIPP study, Baker on the misrepresented NYC CREDO study, and Di Carlo on the garbled charter school debate as just a few examples.) [Emphasis in original]
Public schools belong to the entire community, not just 51% of the parents whose children currently attend them. Public schools were paid for and maintained using public dollars. A small group of parents shouldn’t be given the right to sell the school to a private corporation. Schools need to be improved…not closed.
UCLA’s Rogers is not entirely convinced that parent trigger backers are motivated solely by the desire to make profits at taxpayer expense. Nevertheless, he said, there exists “certain substantial financial backers” and legislators who are driven by their zeal against educator-led unions and a “broader political agenda.”
Most problematic about parent trigger, said Rogers, is the “lack of accountability” on the part of outside groups who parachute into communities. “It undermines trust between schools and communities,” he said, “and it sucks up the energy and attention from addressing [the lack of] school resources and other critical issues.”
The video tells the story of Adelanto, California where a well-funded, outside group “Parent Revolution” came to town and instead of working to improve the schools tricked parents with false promises, bitterly divided the community, and disrupted the education of young children.
“The video makes clear that parent trigger laws, pending in 14 states, are not a magic wand that improves education — there is no magic wand,” said Roger Hickey of the Education Opportunity Network. “Schools need better resources, engaged parents, good teachers and a supportive community. What schools do not need is divisive campaigns that mislead parents and disappoints parents,” he said.
RETENTION IN GRADE
Retaining students because they can’t read isn’t “tough love.” It’s educational malpractice. More than a hundred years of research has shown that retention in grade does not help children “catch up” and it’s time for us to try something else. Retaining students in a grade is not supported by research. Often it’s done because “we have to do something” and the other options cost too much money or are too difficult — or even worse, because we don’t know what else to do (see Research on Retention in Grade).
All over the country legislators have decided they know more about education than educators and have passed laws which deny years of academic research and damage children.
Advocates of the new tough-love policies say social promotion — advancing students based on age and not academic achievement — results in high-schoolers who can barely read, let alone land a job or attend college. Literacy problems are best addressed at an early age, they say.
Critics say the policies reflect an accountability movement that has gone haywire, creating high-stakes tests for 8-year-olds. The child, not the school, bears the brunt of the problem, they say, pointing to research that shows that the academic benefits of repeating a grade fade with time while the stigma can haunt children into adulthood.
Research has consistently shown that retention can result in long-term negative consequences to student achievement. At the same time, other approaches to ensuring student achievement work better than either “social promotion” or retention”.
The myth of America’s failing public schools is false…what has failed is America’s economy. We allow a huge percentage of our children to live in poverty and then blame educators when they can’t overcome it. The plan is to blame the victims and then sell off the public schools to the highest bidder. Charters don’t do better than public schools with children in poverty. Vouchers don’t help. Firing teachers and administrators doesn’t help. We need to work together to support struggling schools, not close them.
Truthfully, you and I know all too well that Secretary Duncan, who led schools in Chicago, is aware of the relationship between poverty and student achievement, but he doesn’t trust us enough to tell us the truth. He is afraid that we will use poverty as an excuse and that we will forget about our disadvantaged students. Ironically, by not acknowledging poverty as a challenge to be overcome, Duncan is forgetting about our disadvantaged students. Duncan needs to deliver the message that all our students deserve not only access to an education, but access to an excellent education. He needs to repeatedly remind us that, when it comes to school improvement, it’s poverty not stupid.
Posted by Mel Riddile on December 15, 2010 12:13 PM
*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.