Chicago, Profession of Education, ALEC
The achievement problems in the US are problems of economics, not education. The schools are not the cause…but a reflection of what is happening in the nation. The extreme — and growing — gap between the haves and the have-nots in America is reflected in its children and their classrooms. Until we begin to address poverty and its related societal problems, we won’t solve the achievement gaps. Testing, charters*, vouchers, teacher evaluations, closing schools…none of those things will help neighborhoods struggling with unemployment, low wages, lack of health care, violence, stress, hunger and other life situations which are the result of poverty.
You get what you pay for…and we’re not paying for the social safety nets our children need. The economic hardship so many in our nation face is our national selfishness in the form of tax cuts at work.
…the United States has more children living in poverty, by a long shot, than any other industrialized nation. Right now about one in four children are living in poverty. In most other industrialized nations we’re talking about well under 10 percent, because there’s so many more supports for housing, healthcare, employment, and so on.
With that very high poverty rate, our average scores on international tests look a little above the average in reading, about at the average in science and somewhat below the average in math, and a lot has been made out of that in the United States. But in fact, students in American schools where fewer than 10 percent of the students live in poverty actually are number one in the world in reading. Students in schools with up to 25 percent of kids living in poverty would rank number three in the world in reading, and even schools with as many as 50 percent of kids in poverty scored well above the averages in the OECD nations – which is mostly the European and some Asian nations. Our teachers are doing something very right in terms of educating kids to high levels in much more challenging circumstances than children face in other countries.
We continue to do what hasn’t worked…our most vulnerable students are getting shuffled around like so many pieces on a chess board, while the legislators and billionaires protect their own children by selling off the public school system and deflecting money for public schools into the private sector.
My friends at NEIFPE and I spoke to three state senators last week…all of them support privatization…none of them sent their children to public schools.
We will never equalize educational outcomes until we provide a basic standard of living for every citizen of this country. We could rapidly implement plans to provide universal health care, create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, make taxes truly progressive, and get monied interests out of politics and our media. So why don’t we?
…There is no evidence that charter expansion, test-based teacher evaluation, vouchers, de-unionization, gutting tenure, merit pay, or ending seniority can be scaled up to provide meaningful improvements in student achievement.
It’s really this simple…
VAM and EVALUATIONS
For some numbers provide the answer to every question related to teaching children. Do you understand VAM? Why shouldn’t we use student test scores to evaluate teachers? Here’s a quality answer.
That’s right. Banker and former director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Obama administration Peter Orszag has written an enlightening piece for Bloomberg.com explaining that VAM really does work. According to Orszag, VAM can determine “which teachers are best.” Now, mind you, I’m no banker, but I would like to offer my thoughts on Orszag’s very positive article on the value of the value added.
…as an expert in statistics and as one who has written detailed accounts of the problems with VAM such as this discourse to Louisiana legislators, I did not (I could not) limit my discussion to only two flaws. VAM is replete with problems, not the least of which is the problem of data integrity and management of the so-called pilot studies purporting to support VAM. No study is ever better than the quality of its data. Neither will be any “testing” of teachers using VAM. Data collection for a high-stakes measurement situation must be flawless.
While the mayor was on vacation the city announced it was closing 54 schools. These will, most likely, be replaced with charter and private school opportunities for students who can afford it. The others will have to get on city buses and pay for a trip to a school…because their local school within walking distance of their house, was closed.
Closing 50 of our neighborhood schools is outrageous and no society that claims to care anything about its children can sit back and allow this to happen to them. There is no way people of conscience will stand by and allow these people to shut down nearly a third of our school district without putting up a fight. Most of these campuses are in the black community. Since 2001 88% of students impacted by CPS school actions are African-American. And this is by design…
…The city has already raised CTA fares and now they expect parents to put their five-year-old on a crowded city bus in order for them to get to school, when they used to be able to walk to a school in their neighborhood. The way this is being done is an insult and it is disrespectful.
…School closings will not save money and taxpayers will not see cost benefits in two years. Why? Because vibrant school communities will be quickly transformed into abandoned buildings, neighborhood eyesores and public safety hazards.
STUPID QUOTE OF THE DAY
(same article as above)
What am I missing here? Valerie Strauss blogs about Karen Lewis’s press conference about the school closings in Chicago. A comment from someone on 3/22/13 said the following…
2:03 AM EDT
Let’s face it Karen Lewis, your schools are broken because your families are largely broken there. But keep voting for democrats, that’ll solve the problem, not……..
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Rahm Emanuel a Democrat? Aren’t Dems at the federal level just as anxious to close schools and destroy public education as Republicans?
Other comments reflect the same lack of understanding, the same anger at teachers, the same disrespect for others. According to some of the commenters, gang and turf wars are the same as high school sports rivalries…it’s the union’s fault…teachers’ make too much money…
A TEACHING CAREER
There are still moments of joy in the classrooms I visit as a volunteer. The teachers I work for make it happen, but all over the country classrooms are focused on test-prep, scripted lessons, and a lack of curricular variety which threatens to kill the desire to learn for millions of our children. Discipline problems increase. Attendance decreases. This is not education.
I miss the feeling of knowing that I’m going to do something great today. I miss the feeling of watching middle school students glow with pride because they figured out how something works, or came up with a new way of doing something. I miss watching kids discover their world and learn how to interact with it effectively. Hell, I even miss bus duty.
But I’m not the only one. I’ve spoken to countless teachers–actual, working teachers–who miss it just as much as I do. There are so many ridiculous and meaningless mandates and policies that have completely strangled this profession. Teaching is supposed to be a journey, where you get to join several young people as they move through the complexities of the world, stepping in to help them correct the path or encourage them to keep moving. For many, though, it has become worse than just a job. It has become a painful spectatorship of the goals of the wealthy and the powerful.
We become teachers because we want to teach…not because we want to make a lot of money…not because it’s easy (nearly 50% of all beginning teachers leave because it’s not easy!), not because we get the summer’s off, and not because we can’t do anything else. By an overwhelming margin — more than 75% nation-wide and more than 80% in Indiana — people with children in public schools are satisfied with their children’s teachers. Those parents need to join with us in fighting the privatization of public education.
This teacher makes a strong statement. Click the link above to read her letter to parents…or watch the video below.
I have chosen to devote the better part of what will be the years that make up my life to educating your child. I take it very seriously and I should; I am a stakeholder in your child’s future…
…how willing would you be to allow some other parent to take over this role for you –someone who claimed to know “better” than you about what was right for your child?
…that is what is happening in my classroom. And it isn’t because they know “better” than I do how to educate your child –the undertaking I have chosen to devote my life’s work to becoming better at doing. It certainly isn’t because they have spent months getting to know the individual you have raised in an effort to better understand what your student needs to thrive in a responsive learning environment. It has nothing to do with the relationship they have formed with your child in order to show respect and care for him/her as a person and as a learner. It doesn’t, for a second, reflect the passion I have for the subject I teach –passion that I pass on to your student in every way I can and at every chance I get.
It simply has to do with money.
…My life’s work. The countless hours I spend with your child presenting new material, creating on-going formative assessments that are authentic and based on your student’s individual needs at a given moment in time, the active learning and knowledge-construction happening in my classroom on a daily basis, the time I spend creating lessons which require students to build upon and re-evaluate prior knowledge and the work that reflects the relationship that I have worked diligently to foster with your student: is it worth putting all of this hard-won expertise on the back-burner so that someone can divert money intended for your child?
Legislation from ALEC is popping up in states around the nation targeting collective bargaining and teacher rights, vouchers, charter schools, testing, and more. Go to ALECExposed.org
*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.