DEFINE ‘GOOD TEACHER’
For the last several years Alfie Kohn has been blogging for Psychology Today under the title of The Homework Myth: How to Fix Schools so Kids Really Learn. Last October he wrote a list of “core principles” which he said would help give our children the schools they deserve. Read these two before you read the next article…
11. All learning can be assessed, but the most important kinds of learning are very difficult to measure—and the quality of that learning may diminish if we try to reduce it to numbers.
12. Standardized tests assess the proficiencies that matter least. Such tests serve mostly to make unimpressive forms of instruction appear successful.
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” — Attributed to Albert Einstein (See here)
What do students remember about their teachers?
When I meet students I have had in class over the last 4 decades they invariably bring up one thing — the books I read to them. No one has ever mentioned spelling words, or math problems, or even recess. No one brings up standardized tests, reading vocabulary or subjects and predicates.
Several of my students who have become teachers have written to tell me that they are reading one of the same books I read to their class.
Of course teachers must teach content, how to read and how to add and subtract. But students learn because of who the teacher is…not just because the teacher presents material. How do you know that you’re doing something right as a teacher? Here are a few ways…
1. Your students are asking questions, not just giving answers…
3. You have listened as often as you have lectured. Another lesson in authority…
4. Your shy students start participating more often without being prompted…
5. A student you’ve encouraged creates something new with her talents…
6. You’ve been told by a student that, because of something you showed them, they enjoy learning outside of class…
12. You’ve let your passions show through in your lessons…
16. One of your students becomes an educator…
DEFINE ‘BAD TEACHER’
What constitutes a “bad teacher?” Arne Duncan, and his host of “reformers” claim that it’s student test scores.
Claim 4: It should be easier to fire bad teachers. Tenure is a problem.
Response: Lots of teachers agree with you. But can you describe your plan for firing bad teachers and not good ones? How will you separate the two groups? How will you make sure that only the bad teachers are impacted by this?
…Claim 10: Teachers only work nine months a year.
Response: Can you tell me how many hours you work in a year? Can you guess how many hours I work in a year? Can you guess three things that I might be doing in the summer to get ready for September?
Average number of hours per week U.S. public-school teachers are required to work to receive base pay : 38
Average number they actually work : 52
Source: National Center for Education Statistics (Washington)
DUNCAN BLACKMAILS STATES
Arne Duncan has blackmailed states into accepting his idea of school “reform” — more charter schools and teachers evaluations based on test scores. If states don’t do what he demands they they are thrown back into the pit of No Child Left Behind where everyone fails.
Twenty-eight superintendents from the State of Washington added a cover letter to the required NCLB letter. The NCLB letter tells the parents that their child’s school is a “failure.” The superintendents’ cover letter let’s them know that it’s NCLB and the U.S. DOE which has failed, not their child’s school.
The label of “failing” schools is regressive and punitive, as nearly every Washington school will not meet the NCLB Requirements. Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled “failing” by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials — as well as the U.S. Department of Education — acknowledge isn’t working.
Even Duncan’s own Department of Education understands that NCLB is a punitive, damaging law. That’s why they allowed the waivers in the first place. But, your state can only be excused from the stupidity of NCLB by adopting equally damaging “reforms.” Since the state of Washington hasn’t followed his rules he is forcing them back to the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Duncan’s petulance will punish schools, teachers, and students. Education doesn’t matter. Learning doesn’t matter.
… instead of giving strings-free waivers, the department designed a list of school-reform hoops that states had to promise to jump through in order to receive one. Those included the establishment of assessment systems that link teacher evaluations to student standardized-test scores, a highly controversial practice…
There is a consequence to having an NCLB waiver pulled. It means that the state has to revert back to meeting all of the requirements of the law —even those requirements that Education Secretary Arne Duncan himself had said repeatedly were unattainable.
“We’ve got 60 languages, we’ve got high mobility, we’ve got high poverty,” Frank Hewins, superintendent of the Franklin Pierce School District, said Wednesday. “When you have students with those challenges, the metrics established by this law are nonsensical.”
The additional letter tells parents that nearly every school in Washington won’t meet the No Child Left Behind requirements this year, and that the 28 superintendents are “proud of the significant academic progress our students are making.”
“Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials – as well as the U.S. Department of Education – acknowledges isn’t working,” the superintendents’ letter says.
EDUCATION IN A DEMOCRACY
The founding fathers understood the importance of an educated populace.
Jefferson said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” and “[T]he tax which will be paid for this purpose [education] is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”
Madison wrote, “Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.”
Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
And John Adams plainly agreed that public education was so important that the people ought to pay for it. “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”
The government, then, has a vested interest in making sure that everyone has the opportunity to be educated to the extent that they are able (and not, as Mitt Romney said, just to the extent they can afford). It’s the government’s responsibility to see that…
- all children are afforded an equitable education
- students are prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship
- students can grow to be economically self-sufficient
- tax money used for public education is used responsibly
There’s also a well-established legal right to home school. But that right, like all rights, is subject to certain restrictions. Parents do have the right to home school, but they don’t have the right to provide their children with a substandard education or, like the McIntyres, deny their children an education altogether. The law is clear: You can believe Jesus is coming back at midnight if you want. You can even tell your children that it’s a fact.
But you still have to teach them how to read.
Charter schools claim to be public schools when they want public money, but then they claim they are private entities when they are expected to be responsible with the money.
Indiana Cyber Charter School, a virtual charter with locations in Fort Wayne and Avon, is accused of not paying Pennsylvania-based National Network of Digital Schools for contracted services and not following through with an additional repayment plan agreement. National Network filed the lawsuit July 25 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.. . . The school listed 200 students enrolled for 2013-14 academic year, according to state data. Passage rate for this spring’s ISTEP exam was 54.4 percent — 20 percentage points lower than the state average.
The NJEA supported the original law, passed in 2012, but said the amended bill would allow charter-school expansion that ran counter to the original intent of the legislation.
After sampling transactions from Magnolia campuses in 2012, L.A. Unified found over $43,000 in duplicate payments to vendors, flagging those as potential misuse of funds.
The Los Angeles Unified school board ordered a second audit in 2014, voting to close two of the schools if any fiscal problems arose.
This is a good list of things everyone should do to increase literacy. I would also add (among other things)…
Parental education is essential…
Challenge yourself to devote 20 to 30 minutes a day to boosting a child’s literacy skills. It could not only change the way that child starts the school year, but it could also change his or her life.
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.