A series of articles about America’s teachers.
We find that experienced teachers are leaving the profession. They’re leaving not because the job is difficult…it’s always been difficult…but because the federal and state governments are doing what they can to destroy public education and the profession of teaching in America. The plan is…
- tell teachers what to teach.
- tell teachers when and how to teach it.
- blame teachers when it doesn’t work.
The results of the study quoted below aren’t surprising.
Contrary to popular opinion, unruly students are not driving out teachers in droves from America’s urban school districts. Instead, teachers are quitting due to frustration with standardized testing, declining pay and benefits and lack of voice in what they teach.
So finds a Michigan State University education scholar — and former high school teacher — in her latest research on teacher turnover, which costs the nation an estimated $2.2 billion a year.
Alyssa Hadley Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education, conducted in-depth interviews with urban secondary teachers before they quit successful careers in teaching. In a pair of studies, Dunn found that despite working in a profession they love, the teachers became demoralized by a culture of high-stakes testing in which their evaluations are tied to student scores and teachers have little say in the curriculum.
The constant whine from the anti-public education crowd is to get rid of the bad teachers. Where are all the “great teachers” going to come from when teaching is a job from which you can be fired at will, a job where you are told what and when to teach by people who don’t have any experience, and a job where requirements are based on the assumption that “anyone can do it?”
A study from the Center for American Progress in July found that slow teacher salary growth contributes to high turnover. Research shows that 13 percent of teachers each year move schools or leave the profession.
“The bottom line is that mid- and late-career teachers are not earning what they deserve, nor are they able to gain the salaries that support a middle-class existence,” says the report.
It continues: “As a nation, we need to do far more to attract — and keep — mid- and late-career teachers. In the end, if we truly want to retain top talent in our classrooms, we need to offer top-talent salaries.”
Now that a teaching shortage has hit how many of those complainers are going to move into the “easy” world of public education with its 180 day work year and short school days.
Often, those who complain the most are those who were average or below-average students who blame teachers, not themselves, for their mediocrity. Although most claim to be strong free-market capitalists, they believe teachers should not have much higher wages and benefits than they do, a philosophy bordering on socialism.
Why aren’t there more men in teaching? Public school teaching is still a “mostly-female” profession. Think about what that might mean in a nation which still has a serious gender wage gap and a general disrespect for women.
…men can earn much more, on average, outside of teaching, while women’s teaching salaries more closely match the average pay for women outside of education.
…Teachers unions argue that the swift adoption of new academic standards, the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers’ job performance and efforts to overhaul tenure all make teaching a less attractive career for anyone.
“The reality of teaching right now is that it’s always been a hard job,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union. It’s “harder now than ever before, with less and less respect,” she said.
…researchers found that “the structure and content of relationships among teachers (teachers’ social capital) significantly predicted school-level student achievement [as measured by their test scores in both reading and math].”
Importantly, these effects were consistent across grades, and were sustained over multiple years…
SSR AND THE NRP
The failure of the National Reading Panel (NRP) was well documented by Gerald Coles in Reading, The Naked Truth and Elaine Garan in Resisting Reading Mandates. Among other things the NRP foolishly rejected research about sustained silent reading (SSR). I have written about SSR before, but it’s nice to see Stephen Krashen write in support of it, too.
The public schools of America have been obsessively focused on the five aspects of reading instruction named by the panel since the NRP report was released in 2000 — phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. No one denies that those are important, but it’s clear that the NRP only reported on those aspects of reading instruction because those are the easiest to measure via testing (see DIBELS), and indeed, the five were specifically included in No Child Left Behind.
Something was missing, though, which reading teachers understood…purpose, motivation and opportunity for reading. Richard Allington wrote The Five Missing Pillars of Scientific Reading Instruction soon after the NRP report was released. It’s a two page addition which includes important aspects of good reading instruction.
- Access to interesting texts and choice.
- Matching kids with appropriate texts.
- Writing and reading have reciprocal positive effects.
- Classroom organization: Balance whole class teaching with small group and side- by-side instruction.
- Availability of expert tutoring.
All the phonics, vocabulary and comprehension instruction in the world isn’t going to be as effective if students aren’t given opportunities to read texts of their choice and at an appropriate difficulty level. That’s what SSR does. It gives students the opportunity to choose their own books and read them at their own rate.
Contrary to the conclusions of the National Reading Panel, study after study supports the practice of sustained silent reading in school. Some of my responses to the panel were published in Education Week, and others appeared in the Phi Delta Kappan and Reading Today (International Reading Association). I also discussed the panel’s errors in The Power of Reading (2004).
In short, the panel missed many many studies, and misreported several others. In my first response to the panel (Kappan, 2001), I reported that sustained silent reading (SSR) was as effective or more effective than comparison groups in 50 out of 53 published comparisons, and in long-term studies, SSR was a consistent winner (Phi Delta Kappan, 2001).
PRAYER IN SCHOOL OR “SCHOOL PRAYER”
From an interview with Rick Santorum…
The movie argues that the observant are being forced to practice in private, for few hours in church on Sundays. But on a personal level, can’t you observe your religion wherever you want?
Not necessarily. You can’t pray in school, but it’s good to have prayer. Are people offended by prayer? Sure. But the constitution gives us the right to offend. There are a lot of things today in America that offend me.
Right, but isn’t school different? There are lots of rules in school that don’t apply to the rest of society.
This is a fallacy. By making such a judgment, you’re communicating what’s good and bad. Not having the Bible taught in school is a mistake. The Bible is the basis upon which Western civilization was built. It is the most influential book of all. And yet it’s not taught. In school, they can’t talk about the impact of this book. This is, in fact, putting forth a view of history that is ahistorical. It’s hard to not look at the history of Western civilization and not see faith.
Rick Santorum is absolutely wrong and he probably knows it. It’s completely legal to pray in public schools as long as 1) the government (in the form of the teachers or administration) doesn’t choose, mandate, or lead the prayers and, 2) as long as students who are praying are not disrupting the education of others or themselves.
In 1995, thirty-five organizations, ranging from Americans United for Separation of Church and State to the National Association of Evangelicals to the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (Sikh), joined as signatories to a Joint Statement of Current Law on Religion in the Public Schools. In the statement they agreed that,
Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive. Because the Establishment Clause does not apply to purely private speech, students enjoy the right to read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray before tests, and discuss religion with other willing student listeners. In the classroom students have the right to pray quietly except when required to be actively engaged in school activities (e.g., students may not decide to pray just as a teacher calls on them). In informal settings, such as the cafeteria or in the halls, students may pray either audibly or silently, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other speech in these locations. However, the right to engage in voluntary prayer does not include, for example, the right to have a captive audience listen or to compel other students to participate. [emphasis added]
Santorum is also wrong about the Bible being taught in school. Again, the Joint Statement…
The history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature (either as a separate course or within some other existing course), are all permissible public school subjects. It is both permissible and desirable to teach objectively about the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries. One can teach that the Pilgrims came to this country with a particular religious vision, that Catholics and others have been subject to persecution or that many of those participating in the abolitionist, women’s suffrage and civil rights movements had religious motivations. [emphasis added]
As is common with some politicians, Santorum misrepresents the truth. What he really meant to say was that schools can’t lead children in the prayers he wants, and can’t teach his religion using the Bible.
Now where was it that I read about “not bearing false witness?”
Arne Duncan needs to be fired. President Obama’s education plan needs to be overhauled…
Duncan took away Washington State’s waiver because the legislature refused to tie teacher evaluations to student test score…Duncan took away Oklahoma’s waiver because the Legislature repealed the state’s participation in the Common Core, and the governor signed the law.
Duncan’s staff has put Florida on notice that the state is at risk of violating NCLB standards that require all children to be counted equally in accountability formulas. Earlier this year, with the support of educators and advocates, the Legislature agreed to give non-English-speaking students two years in a U.S. school before including their standardized test scores in school grading formulas. The change was an acknowledgement of the huge learning curve such children face and that schools should not be penalized if those students can’t read, comprehend and write English at grade level within a year.
Yet to the federal bureaucrats enforcing the unpopular NCLB law, such common sense doesn’t matter. They have given Florida a year to make changes or risk losing its NCLB waiver, which has allowed the state to substitute its own accountability efforts for some of the most unworkable federal mandates. Those include the idealistic but unreasonable federal standard for 2014 that each child at a school must be working at grade level for the school not to be deemed “failing.”
An update for your information…
Children in poverty: 16.4 million, 23 percent of all children, including 39.6 percent of African-American children and 33.7 percent of Latino children. Children are the poorest age group in the US
Mayor Emanuel’s rubber stamp school board closed 50 schools last year because they were underutilized. Then they opened dozens of charter schools to dump public money into the pockets of political supporters. Now we find, unsurprisingly, that the charter schools did no better than public schools.
Chicago’s public neighborhood elementary schools improved greatly in reading and slightly in math, outpacing average charter school growth last year, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of recently released testing data.
Mayor Emanuel, and Arne Duncan before him, closed dozens and dozens of neighborhood schools in Chicago. Here we read about the pain and stress that closing schools has on families and children.
“It is a painful, really agonizing process to close a school,” Harris said. “The people who are there are choosing to be there. No one wants to see it happen.”
…“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.
…it still created upheaval for families.
“It’s a significant disruption of their life,” Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth said.
…For those children, catching up academically will be as difficult as grappling with the loss of their school and adapting to a new environment.
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.