U.S. DOE, Money
After going viral with his TED talk, Toxic Culture of Education, Joshua Katz has decided to enter the race for Orange County, Florida (Orlando) school board. When announcing his candidacy, Katz said,
When it comes to all the barrage of end of year tests, testing this, even teacher evaluations, school grades…is that the proper filter from the question “is this what’s best for our students?”
…we need a voice that’s going to speak up and say, “when are we going to involve the actual stakeholders [the students]?
As a teacher I’ve been impassioned about education for my entire career. I believe that someone with that passion for teaching and education needs to be making these education policies.
I spent my career in public education classrooms…and still work with public education students. I have heard more than one teacher comment that they wish they could get out of education…but for them, mid-career professionals with young children, homeowner and auto debt, it’s too late to go back to college and plot another career path. These are not “bad” teachers…quite the contrary, some are among the best teachers I have ever worked with. They’re frustrated, discouraged, and disillusioned by 1) a state government (legislature, governor and state school board) which seems to hate public schools and public school educators, 2) national, state and local media outlets which promote the false narrative of the “reformsters,” and 3) a local school district strapped for cash, forced by the state and federal departments of education into a test-and-punish mentality. The phrase “I wish I could just teach” is heard often.
Teachers are not against being evaluated…or being held accountable. What
they we are against is unfair evaluations…and sole accountability for that which they we are not responsible. Until that changes the number of high achieving students going into and staying in teaching will dwindle. We have to stop punishing teachers for taking on the hard task of working with difficult to educate students.
If we purposely wanted to discourage the “best and the brightest” from joining (or remaining a part of) the teaching profession we couldn’t have devised a better plan.
Susan Headden of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching said because teachers don’t have the support they need to be effective educators. (Read Headden’s new report on beginning teachers in the classroom here.)
Headden said a teacher in the first few years of his or her career is facing more pressure than previous generations of teachers because of higher stakes testing that have real consequences if students don’t perform well.
But Headden said the support to comfort a teacher through that stressful first year and provide effective teaching techniques and strategies doesn’t exist in most school districts.
For a more entertaining look at this topic see Edushyster’s article, Have Elevator, Will Elevate (the Teaching Profession).
High achieving nations do the exact opposite of what the USA does when it comes to teacher training and careers. The Indiana State School Board is not alone in considering plans to lower the qualifications for educators — from teachers to superintendents. School systems are divesting themselves of older, experienced teachers for TFA-like temps with little training and experience, and even littler paychecks.
By accepting so few applicants, Finnish teacher colleges accomplish two goals—one practical, one spiritual: First, the policy ensures that teachers-to-be like Stenfors are more likely to have the education, experience, and drive to do their jobs well. Second (and this part matters even more), this selectivity sends a message to everyone in the country that education is important—and that teaching is damn hard to do. Instead of just repeating these claims over and over like Americans, the Finns act like they mean it.
Instead of saying, “In the real world workers don’t have tenure. Why should teachers have it?” We ought to be saying, “Everyone deserves due process.”
One way to ensure the economic security and independence of Americans is to afford them the simple workplace protection of due process.
Due process itself is as American as Apple Pie. It is enshrined in the US Constitution as a basic political right. FDR made the observation that “As our nation has grown in size and stature … political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness”. In other words, he said political rights were no longer enough.
“At will” employment laws create the potential for Americans to have that equality taken from them simply because another person feels like doing it. The laws expose people to capricious, even ‘grossly ineffective’ supervisors and place employees on a less even playing field with employers than they already are. The US is the only wealthy nation on Earth that still subscribes to the “Employment At Will Doctrine (here)” (here) and many nations, like Germany (cited only because it is the richest nation in Europe (here)), have laws that specifically spell out the type of due process every employee should have when faced with possible termination (here).
That’s why, instead of taking due process rights away from teachers, the better thing to do is to just give them to everyone else. Let’s not make judge Treu and his colleagues, nor me and my colleagues, the exception. Instead, let’s work to make that standard -that no person can have their job taken from him or her simply because another person “wills” it- the rule. Let’s not make this a rule just for teachers or just for judges, but for every person in California and beyond.
There is no doubt that both the lawsuit and the decision are anti-public education, anti-union and fit entirely within the narrative of all that is wrong in public education can be understood by blaming the people who actually do the work within school: teachers, paraprofessionals, counselor, librarians, school nurses and psychologists. Secondly, it seeks to deflect the blame away from systematic underfunding of public education and the shredding of the social safety net in California that has led to losses in services to the most needy students and families across the state.
But the ruling isn’t ‘misguided’. On the contrary, it is entirely in line with Arne Duncan and Barack Obama’s wholesale attack on public education, which emphasizes merit pay for ‘good’ teachers and a streamlined dismissal process for ‘poor’ ones, which supports standardized testing and ‘value-added’ assessment for teachers to measure performance, and which seeks to replace public education with privately run (though publicly funded) charter schools that opens the estimated $1 trillion education industry to corporate control, profit, and plunder.
Let’s quit trying to “teacher-proof” education and stop the overreliance on data from one high-stakes test. The answers for improvement are recruiting, training and supporting our teaching professionals. Attention to these will deepen the effectiveness of what we do in the classroom and the biggest winners will be our children.
Henry is superintendent of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.
Soccer, softball, dancing, gymnastics…do kids just get to “play outside” anymore? They should.
Children who spend more time in less structured activities — from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo — are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.
Speaks for itself…
The founding class of Harlem Success Academy 1 graduated on Friday. The class started with 73 enrolled first-grade students in August 2006, but 32 students were at graduation. And none of the students, who are either black or Latino, got high enough scores test for top high schools.
Arne Duncan threatens yet another state with loss of funds if they don’t use an invalid method of teacher evaluation.
A federal education official warned Tuesday that if New York delays using student test scores as part of teacher evaluations this year, the state risks losing up to $292 million of a grant tied to making these reviews more rigorous.
MONEY FOR TESTS
Let’s quit wasting our funds on inappropriate, overused and misused standardized tests.
The dirty, little secret in America’s education wars is that spending more money on schools is what most people really want – and for good reason, because it really tends to help…
Equity, it must be understood, does not mean “every kid gets the same amount.” Rather, Baker explained, real equity is providing all children, regardless of their educational settings or personal backgrounds, the resources and opportunity they need to achieve similar outcome goals. In other words, if we want kids who come from low-income households or from families who don’t speak English – two demographic characteristics strongly correlated with lower achievement – to achieve the same common outcome goals as their better-off, fluent English peers, that requires funding adjustments to support the additional costs of achieving those outcome goals – whether those costs are for additional staff specialists, smaller class sizes, or more experienced, higher paid teachers. That’s what an approach to fairly funding schools would insist on.
What Baker found, however, was, “The recent recession yielded an unprecedented decline in public school funding fairness. 36 states had a three year average reduction in current spending fairness between 2008-09 and 2010-11 and 32 states had a three year average reduction in state and local revenue fairness over that same time period.”
Another finding in Baker’s analysis: Two factors, cuts in state aid to schools and “a shifting role for federal aid,” were chief reasons for the declining funding fairness during the downturn. [emphasis added]
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.