TFA, Reading, Early Childhood Education
One mistake we supporters of public education make is to give most “reformers” the benefit of the doubt…that they will listen to reason and do what’s best for children. It seems to me, though, that the goal for many “reformers” is not improved education, it’s the destruction of the public education system in America. Why? Choose a reason — government anything is bad and the private sector is the only valid way to do anything, schools are hotbeds of secular humanism and teach evolution, teachers unions must be busted. Whatever the reason, public school advocates must understand that “reformers” will not listen to reason…they will not “come around” when they see that privatization is hurting public education…and they will not give up the economic hold they have established on the tax money funding public schools.
- Charter Schools Have Not Improved Education…
- The Profit Motive Perverts the Goals of Education…Our nation’s impulsive experiment with privatization is causing our schools to look more like boardrooms than classrooms. Charter administrators make a lot more money than their public school counterparts, and their numbers are rapidly increasing. Teachers, on the other hand, are paid less, and they have fewer years of experience and a higher turnover rate. The patriotic-sounding “Teach for America” charges public school districts $3,000 to $5,000 per instructor per year. Teachers don’t get that money, business owners do.
- Advanced Profit-Making: Higher Education…At the college level, for-profit schools eagerly clamor for low-income students and military veterans, who conveniently arrive with public money in the form of federal financial aid. For-profit colleges get up to 90 percent of their revenue from U.S. taxpayers. Less incentive remains for these schools after tuition is received, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of the students enrolled in for-profit colleges in 2008-9 left without a degree or diploma.
- Lower-Performing Children Left Behind…The National Education Policy Center notes that “Charter schools…can shape their student enrollment in surprising ways,” through practices that often exclude “students with special needs, those with low test scores, English learners, or students in poverty.”
Who will be responsible when privately run schools harm students? Caveat emptor?
The General Assembly continues to expand Indiana’s private-school voucher program, siphoning nearly $135 million away from public schools in just three years. When problems arise, they won’t be concentrated within one giant corporation, but failure by even a handful of voucher schools will result in harm to students. The case for negligence will be even tougher to prove.
Stephen Krashen is a constant voice trying to reason with anyone who will listen.
…evidence that Success schools devote an astonishing amount of time to test preparation and devote little or no time to subjects that are not tested, evidence that teachers, parents, students and staff were required to attend the pro-charter rally last fall, and evidence that suspension rates at Success schools are very high.
It should also be pointed out that research has shown that in general charter schools do not do as well as public schools, even though may [sic] are very selective in who they admit, and can expel “problem” students.
Why didn’t the school board vet this man before he became a principal? Oh, wait…charter school…privately run…no public accountability. Once again — caveat emptor.
Thomas had invented a doctorate and a master’s degree and claimed to have been a principal at a DC school where he had merely been a teacher.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: OPEN TO ALL
Grant was not America’s most successful president, however, he was ahead of his time calling for free public schools for everyone regardless of their faith or lack thereof.
Despite his faults, there was one area where Grant did shine: separation of church and state. During his tenure, the idea of public education for the masses began catching on in the United States. Schools were built, and states began passing the first mandatory attendance laws…
Grant had a better idea. He called for removing Protestant worship from public schools. He proposed making public schools legally non-sectarian and thus welcoming to all families. He also opposed any tax funding of religious schools.
Under the heading of “Coming soon to a state near you” candidates for the Texas State Board of Education claim that it is not the government’s responsibility to educate children. This is, if they were honest about it, likely the belief of many “reformers.” Their opinion is that public schools should not exist…that the state should have no interest in an educated citizenry.
At least three Republican candidates — including one incumbent — in this year’s Texas State Board of Education elections say they “strongly disagree” that “it is the government’s responsibility to be sure children are properly educated.” The same candidates also say they “strongly agree” that “free market competition for education dollars” would be better than a “government monopoly.” “Free market competition” is the core argument for advocates of private school vouchers, which take tax dollars from public schools to pay tuition for students admitted to private and religious schools…
In rejecting government responsibility for ensuring that all children get an education, all of those candidates and board members are at odds with great Americans like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as well as Article 7, Section 1, of the Texas Constitution…
The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial page…one of the few voices for public education in an anti-public education
One thing most citizens agree on is that no cost, high quality K – 12 education should be available for all children. The benefits seem quite clear for both the individuals, and our society as a whole…
An organization’s budget is clear statement of values. The State of Indiana needs to quit looking for scapegoats and sending public instruction funds to commercial vendors. It should instead, reinvest in its children at levels to get the job done properly. In other words, it should align its strategies towards the original goal, rather than the surrogate.
Those of us who live in Indiana might be confused about the politics of public education. In Indiana it’s the Republicans who seem bent upon the destruction and privatization of public education. I believe, however, that the only reason most Indiana Democrats are against the privatization of public schools is because the Republicans are for it. Nationally, the Democratic party is every bit as pro-corporate education reform industry as are the Republicans. President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are as bad for public schools as were Bush (II) and Spellings. No Child Left Behind was a bipartisan attack on public schools and so is Race to the Top. The corporate money funding the attack on public education is bipartisan. The Obama of the 2007 campaign (see the quote at the top of this page) is gone.
The audacity of the project is matched by the passive deference that it is accorded. There is no organized opposition — in civil society or politics. Only a few outgunned elements fight a rearguard action against a juggernaut that includes Republicans and Democrats, reactionaries and liberals — from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York to the nativist Christian Right of the Bible Belt. All of this without the national “conversation” otherwise so dear to the hearts of the Obama people, without corroboration of its key premises, without serious review of its consequences, without focused media attention…
In 2010, Education Secretary Arne Duncan castigated public school teachers in Rhode Island for going on strike to protest arbitrary changes in working conditions and wages while encouraging authorities to fire them if necessary. He “applauded” the move to fire every teacher at Central Falls High School (as reported in the Providence Journal). This is from an administration that never asked anyone to resign from AIG, Bank of America, CITI, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Fannie Mae or Sally Mae.
Similarly, in 2012-2013, Obama lent the tacit backing of the White House to Rahm Emanuel’s strategy for busting the Chicago teachers union and for a mass closing of public schools. The follow-on ‘charter’ program has been cited as rife with corruption. Secretary Duncan has been given free rein to use the powers of his department to cajole and pressure states into the unqualified promotion of charter schools — whatever the record shows about their mediocre record…
Of all the institutions that made the United States into a coherent society, none made a greater contribution than our public schools. It was they that fashioned a loyal citizenry bound by a core of civic values and a collective identity — regardless of creed, national origin, religion or political preference. It was they that molded a disparate population into a unified nation. That may not be the case in the future.
I know that some of the students who join Teach for America have the best intentions (see #9 in this article), but that doesn’t change the fact that they are unqualified. People who want to teach — especially in schools filled with hard to educate children — need to be well trained BEFORE they start. Education is not the place for on-the-job-training.
This is one of the best articles I’ve read exposing why TFA needs to be shut down.
1. Five Weeks.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Five weeks of training. My flightiest fifteen-year-old students have longer relationships. The gestation period of a guinea pig is longer. Phileas Fogg could not even get halfway around the world. And even the “five weeks” is overstating it, because as numerous TFA escapees have noted, a large chunk of that five weeks is not actual training, but simply being dumped in front of a faux class to flail away.
The go-to analogy here is “Would you hire a doctor/lawyer who had only five weeks of training,” but we don’t have to get that fancy. I wouldn’t let a five-week plumber touch my pipes or a five-week mechanic touch my car. When I worked a summer as a catalog order phone sales rep, I was trained for two entire weeks, and closely supervised for another month. The only jobs where five weeks of training are adequate involve either “Do you want fries with that” or “Paper or plastic?”
…9. TFA Wastes the Good Intentions of Good People
Many, many TFAers join up for the very best of reasons with the very best of intentions. These are people who really want to help make the world a better place for children who face tough obstacles. Instead, they are made part of a program that sets them up for failure in the classroom and wastes all their good intentions on simply enriching TFA itself. Some of these people actually end up staying in teaching for good, and God bless those people. But how many more of those good people would still be teachers if they had actually gotten involved in, I don’t know– a teaching program.
Can you think of any skilled professions in which it would be safe to employ individuals with only a handful of weeks of training? Would you want a nurse who had been hastily trained to be caring for your health and well being? Would you want a lawyer with such little experience to defend you? Would you want a poorly trained mechanic working on your car? Even if any of these people had been college-educated? So why do so many people think it is okay to entrust the education of our nation’s children to college graduates with so little training and experience? Do we believe fundamentally that teaching requires very little skill and commitment? I do not care where you received your degree, if you don’t have any real training in the realm of teaching, and no commitment to sticking around in order to become a good teacher, you simply do not belong in a classroom. It is not safe.
The “I’ve got mine, go get your own” attitude is pervasive when it comes to public education. Robert Reich explains…
Perhaps it’s because, as inequality has widened and class divisions have hardened, America’s wealthy no longer have any idea how the other half lives.
Being rich in today’s America means not having to come across anyone who isn’t. Exclusive prep schools, elite colleges, private jets, gated communities, tony resorts, symphony halls and opera houses, and vacation homes in the Hamptons and other exclusive vacation sites all insulate them from the rabble.
America’s wealthy increasingly inhabit a different country from the one “they” inhabit, and America’s less fortunate seem as foreign as do the needy inhabitants of another country.
WHEN IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS…
You can’t sign this. The author asked that it be publicized. He wrote (in the comments),
I hope that you’ll “sign” by sharing this via Facebook or other social media! More posts coming soon, so I hope you’ll “follow” the blog and offer your thoughts. Best wishes. David Sudmeier
So I’ve reproduced it in full…in lieu of my signature…
When, in the course of a teaching career, it becomes essential to break from excessively rational beliefs and schemes and to begin thinking openly and freely, disregarding the dictatorial influences of political hacks, the insidious prodding of education gurus and the bleating of complacent peers, it is necessary that the thinking educator admonish the world with the whys and wherefores of their intended independence from those scourges of productive learning, Corporations and their Behaviorist lackeys.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that education is best described as a journey, not a destination; that education is not a medicine or treatment to be inflicted upon learners; that a partnership between willing learner, skilled teacher, and supportive guardian forms the foundation of productive education; and that a democratic society sustains itself by practice of its ideals within the educational environment. Numerous corporations and anti-public education fronts—including, but not limited to, the Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, ALEC, State Policy Network, Teach for America, Stand for Children, and Teach Plus— plot and contrive to dictate educational policy, conduct and beliefs. When unelected billionaires use their financial clout to promulgate a destructive vision for American education, it is the right—nay, the obligation—of every educator to break all the Windows® they can, chop down every Solution Tree that stands, consign their Common Core lesson plans to the reformatorium, and renew their commitment to student-centered instruction in order to preserve their claim to professional status, ensure their future happiness, and maintain their present sanity.
A glance at the attempts by corporatist forces to deform public education provides ample evidence that ideas and opinions formed in the business world are all too tempting to politicians who rely on corporate funds for re-election. Behold: political narrow-mindedness, focus on data rather than humanity, the tendency to blame those who teach for the ills of society, and an unwillingness to consider humane methods of instruction as acceptable alternatives to techniques of indoctrination serve as warnings to the nation’s teachers and learners that they, too, are doomed to a future of boredom and inner turmoil if they do not act against the domination of Corporations and their Behaviorist toadies in public education today.
When narrow-mindedness reaches that point where afflicted educators are shamed for considering alternatives to the shallow reasoning and attitudes taught them by the nefarious Dufour Duo, their uprising is most justified. So have I and my fellow educators suffered. We rise above this morass of ridiculous ideals today to present several of the offenses of the Corporatist/Behaviorist Cabal for consideration:
They assert a corporation’s right to legal status as individuals in order to exert unrestricted financial influence over public policy, while also enjoying exemptions from the obligations which citizens affected by those policies must endure.
They degrade democracy by excluding teaching professionals from the process of creating standards and imposing those standards without public debate.
They devalue the professionalism of teachers by demanding the surrender of all autonomy in favor of scripted lessons and prescriptive standards.
They claim without evidence that setting “standards” will transform education for the better.
They threaten the privacy of students and seek to transform public schools into another source of profit.
They demand unswerving loyalty and obedience from educators, rather than encouraging professional discourse and promoting respectful dialogue.
They vilify the professional associations of educators and encourage citizens to view teachers and other public servants as parasites on society.
They use non-profit fronts to conceal profit-seeking enterprises.
They alienate youth from their educations by placing undue emphasis on outcomes as opposed to personal investment in the process of learning.
They reduce the beauty and complexity of academic endeavor to atomistic standards as part of their crusade to deprive educators of professional discretion.
They strip seasoned professionals of dignity and destroy their morale.
We, therefore, educators of America, straightforwardly and without dissembling, appealing to the Master Instructor for the iGeneration, do, in the name—and assuming the authority— of public school teachers throughout this Land, brazenly publish and declare that we are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent of Corporate Influence; that we are absolved of allegiance to Arne Duncan and his ilk, and that all connection between educators and Bill Gates’ connivances is hereby dissolved, and that as Free and Independent Tutors, we have full power to offer learners a democratic environment, disregard the CCSS, ignore John Hattie’s latest work of fiction, and do all things that free-thinkers of the world might do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the dearly-departed Socrates, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives (such as they are after semester grading), our meager salaries and 403(b)s, and what little honor we have left after attending PLC conferences.
WE SIGN OUR NAMES…
Research doesn’t matter…it’s only how much money we can make. The bottom line is profit…not education.
The American Academy of Pediatrics notes the critical factor as to how a student will learn to read “is not how aggressively,” the child is given instruction, but rather their “own enthusiasm for learning.” They also state that many early learning programs “interfere with the child’s natural enthusiasm” by imposing on children to “concentrate on tasks” when they aren’t ready.
Why are young children being made to learn at a faster rate? Why is there this mistaken notion that children’s brains have somehow evolved to a higher level where they are supposed to read earlier and earlier?
All of this emergency talk has filtered into America’s classrooms. That’s why kindergarten teachers now believe all children must learn how to read in kindergarten. Having worked for years with reading and language problems in middle and high school students, I can tell you these new reading requirements for young children are terribly worrisome—even dangerous.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
The Raising of America – Are We Crazy About Our Kids?
This is 32 minutes long…but it is well worth the time investment (watch it during the next snow/fog day). Believe it or not successful early childhood development programs in some higher achieving countries are based on American research? Believe it.
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.