Elementary Teachers, Politicians.
A YOUNG SUPPORTER OF PUBLIC EDUCATION
TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core, Teacher Evaluations, and Educational Data
Ethan Young defends public education with reason and intelligence. Too bad he’s not a multi-billionaire…
POVERTY, NOT TEACHERS
David Sirota has emerged as a welcome voice for public education. Here he again debunks the “reform” claims that 1) schools are failing and 2) it’s the fault of the teachers unions. It’s poverty…and it’s getting worse.
As I’ve reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system’s problems are not universal–the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do.
Similarly, we know that many of the high-performing public schools in America’s wealthy locales are unionized. We also know that one of the best school systems in the world—Finland’s—is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers’ unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing.
So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation. Cross-referencing and education data, researchers found that that a majority of all public school students in one third of America’s states now come from low-income families.
POVERTY, LIES AND INSULTS PART 1
Steve Perry, friend to Michelle Rhee, continues the lie that there are such things as “failed schools.” The failure is much more expansive than that. Yes, there are teachers, administrators and school systems with problems which need to be solved, however, many of the problems are due to lack of funding and lack of resources needed to deal with the failed communities in which they are located. Failing bureaucrats, failing politicians, failing policy makers all deserve a share the blame when children are placed in a school unable to meet their academic and social needs.
I wonder: did the organizers of this conference chose Dr. Perry because of his judicious use of social media to engage in a civil conversation about education?
America has a long and ugly history of groups like the teachers’ unions fighting to keep minority kids from getting out of failed schools.
Wealthier schools get more money and more resources and the students achieve at a higher level than schools with high poverty. Is this surprising? Jonathan Kozol responds in two different ways…
People agree with everything I say,” Kozol continued. “They say, ‘Yes, it is unfair they don’t get as much per pupil as our children.’ Then they say, ‘Tell me one thing. Can you really solve this kind of problem by throwing money at it?’ And I say, ‘You mean, can you really buy your way to a better education? It seems to work for your children.’
Remember this when politicians blame teachers and their unions for “failed” schools.
The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.
POVERTY, EDUCATION SOLVES EVERYTHING
We don’t provide the same resources for students in poverty and then politicians, pundits and policy makers blame teachers, teachers unions and schools when those students don’t achieve at the same level as the wealthy.
#1 A college and career-ready education is the path out of poverty.
This talking point was made up out of thin air. It was sold as a solution to a problem that no one has the political or economic will to fix. The plan was to put the schools on the spot, with the responsibility of fixing our poverty problem. When they failed, we adopted a new corporate model, with corporate standards, objective measure, and a birth-to-career program. Now, we can make sure our children fit into a guaranteed job track. It won’t (it can’t) fix poverty, but at least those kids will be working for the corporate dominance of their beloved country.
For those politicians who think that underfunded and under-resourced schools can relieve the fact that nearly one-fourth of our children live in poverty…
5. Education Necessarily Remedies Poverty
Another plutocratic myth suggests that a lack of education is the root of poverty, and that education is the answer to poor people’s plight. This is also an assertion many liberals like President Obama regularly make. Joining them are conservatives like Newt Gingrich who, in the lead-up to the South Carolina primaries, defended his earlier remarks about the poor and food stamps, stating: “I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.”
These ways of thinking legitimize the plight of the poor, effectively blaming victims of exploitation: blaming low-income workers’ conditions on their failure to possess a real job, which means a job that requires a degree.
POVERTY, LIES AND INSULTS PART 2
Jenson brings incorrect assumptions to this article (see below).
For example, he says that
the classroom teacher is still the single most significant contributor to student achievement; the effect is greater than that of parents, peers, schools or poverty…
The truth is that research has shown that the classroom teacher is the single most significant IN-SCHOOL contributor to student achievement. The teacher’s influence can’t counteract poor prenatal care, alcoholism, toxic air in our cities, lack of medical, dental and mental health care, food insecurity, family and community violence, and family mobility.
Jensen insults teachers with statements like, “most teachers simply don’t know how be a high-performer and others have lost hope and don’t try any more.” and “teachers at the high-performing schools didn’t complain about kids not “being smart” or being unmotivated.” The implication is that teachers who work in high-poverty schools don’t care, spend their days complaining and are incompetent.
Finally, he writes about “effective teachers” and how they “raise student achievement.” This is clearly his way of saying “test scores.” We know that test scores don’t reflect knowledge or real learning…any more than “Google provide[s] knowledge.” Facts, resources and information are important, but they aren’t the whole of education.
Poverty is a cause of low achievement, not the other way around.
- Teachers often come into the profession as a chance to “make a difference.” But making a difference can go both ways. If students achieve well, the difference is positive. If students struggle, our nation struggles. If teachers raised student achievement by 10%, the U.S. schools would not only rank among the top 5 in the world, it would also raise gross domestic product by 1% a year. Over the next two generations, this would boost the economy by 112 trillion (not a typo). The government has tried for 50 years and failed; but educators can erase poverty in our own lifetime.
- Here’s what we do know, as of today: a) the classroom teacher is still the single most significant contributor to student achievement; the effect is greater than that of parents, peers, schools or poverty, b) the effectiveness of classroom teachers varies dramatically, especially within schools, c) research shows teachers in the top 20%, based on year-on-year progress with their students, will completely erase the academic effects of poverty in five years, d) most teachers simply don’t know how be a high-performer and others have lost hope and don’t try any more.
The Chinese are paying thousands to send their children to American schools because of our ability to promote problem solving and independent thinking and in order to escape the test-crazed Chinese system. Irony anyone?
What is most interesting to note is that Chinese parents, who are known for their reverence for education, have a high regard for American public schools. If they are as bad as reformers assert, why do these parents send their children here for their education? The facile answer is that they do so because it allows their children to escape the pressure of preparing for China’s college entrance exam.
But I think there’s more to the story than that. Our entire public educational system tries to promote independent thinking and self-expression. These are the antithesis of the goals of schools in China. Further evidence of the esteem that China has for American education is seen in the number of its educators observing schools here (“Bowie school gives tips to visiting Chinese educators,” gazette.net, Oct. 24). We must be doing something right. Yet don’t expect to hear a word about any of this from critics.
HERE’S TO ELEMENTARY TEACHERS
A second post from Walt Gardner…only because I was an elementary teacher and I like the kudos!
In light of the unique responsibilities that elementary school teachers shoulder on a daily basis, I take my hat off to them for what they manage to accomplish. I couldn’t do their job. I wish others would pay them the same respect.
POLITICIANS – BOUGHT AND PAID FOR
Finally, a public response to a personal email.
Here in Indiana we’re watching the Governor and his appointed State Board of Education (along with the help of the supermajority legislature) wrest power over public education from the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Glenda Ritz defeated Tony Bennett in last year’s election with more votes than the governor received. Since then the majority party has done everything but stand in the schoolhouse doorway to keep Ritz from doing what the people elected her to do. For details see (among dozens of other examples) the following.
Recently I got an email from a friend who sent me the link to the video at the top of this blog entry. In it she wrote about the conflict between the Superintendent and the State Board of Education.
PS–In an effort to share information…I sent this video to all of our State Board members–with a short grandmotherly admonition about my disappointment with the on going contentiousness between the Board and Glenda Ritz. (As an unrelated side note, the newest appointee to the Board–who is a Democrat and DFER guy–is as bad as the others…) How in the world did we ever end up in this state?
This got me thinking…it’s not just “the majority party” which, in this state, is Republican. There are Democrats here in Indiana (as well as in D.C.) who have taken hold of the corporate bag of test, punish, and privatize.
DFER, Democrats for Education Reform, is the Democratic arm of the privatization movement.
Public school educators and public school supporters must acknowledge that the problem is not one political party or the other, it’s the corporate tail wagging the education dog. The Gates, Broads and Waltons of the world are buying the politicians and the politicians in turn, in order to keep their power in legislatures and executive offices (state and federal), are sucking up to them.
The reason Superintendent Ritz’s law suit was dismissed — the reason the school board dismisses her election mandate — the reason the legislature passes anti-union, anti-public education legislation, is simply that there’s a lot of money to be made by privatizing public education. We’re in an era in American Education of “I’ve got mine, and it’s tough sh*t if you don’t have yours.”
It’s never been about education. It’s never even been about teachers (other than as a political force). It’s about money. Those that “have” are doing everything they can to buy more and to hell with anyone who gets in their way.
All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.