NO TIME TO THINK
Here is a thoughtful piece by John Kuhn about how America’s public school teachers have no time to think.
There is no time to think in most of our schools. I mean, of course there’s time to think about today’s content and to think about tomorrow’s lesson plan. But beyond that, long-term thinking–thinking big, new thoughts, imagining different realities–is a luxury that busy people don’t have. Thought experiments can be joyous, and they can be terribly inefficient when they don’t pan out…
How can we hope to become truly professionalized when our industry’s philosophers haven’t time to dream? Teaching doesn’t have any Einsteins daydreaming in a patent clerk’s office; they’re all hustling to get their copies made before the bell rings…
Teachers have no voice in policy, as has been noted often. Non-practitioners may implement wrong-headed approaches, the same ones others implemented in bygone eras–and they may go all-in on them, and stick with them long after it becomes clear that they don’t really help–but yet, there’s this thing: the teachers, even if they wanted to improve their profession, are too busy to engage fully in the same way the leading minds of other professions engage. We can’t engage in policy-shaping; we can’t even sharpen our saws.
FEDS GO AFTER COLLEGES OF EDUCATION
Not content with destroying K-12 public education Duncan sets his sights on higher education using the fake science of VAM and invalid use of K-12 student test scores.
Arne Duncan wants to set the standards for teachers’ colleges and use the power of the federal purse to evaluate them. It seems there is nothing that Arne Duncan is not competent to judge, other than the success or failure of his own initiatives. He has used Race to the Top funding to push test-based teacher evaluations (VAM), which have worked nowhere. He has used RTTT to impose Common Core standards, which are designed to align with tests that will fail most students. He has used RTTT to encourage states to privatize more public schools. Many districts now, spurred on by Duncan’ s rhetoric, are thinking of adopting the New Orleans model of an all-charter district, even though the Recovery School District rates 65th of 68 districts in Louisiana and most of the charter schools are graded as D or F schools by the state.
THE HOW AND WHY OF “REFORM”
Yes. It’s on purpose. The three articles which follow…the first by Peter Greene (Curmudgucation), the second by Jennifer Berkshire (Edushyster), and the last, from Rethinking Schools, give both the history and rationale behind the global education reform movement (GERM). If you are new to the fight and want to know some of what’s happened and why, these are must-read articles.
By creating a system in which teachers are no longer the experts on what they teach or how to teach it, reformsters turn teachers from educated professionals into content delivery workers. You don’t need a building full of education experts– just one or two to direct the rest of a staff of drones. Use a boxed program like engageNY– anybody who can read the script and the instructions can teach students.
Teachers frequently scratch their head and ask, “Are they TRYING to drive people out of the profession? ” Well, probably, yes. Teach for America “teachers” are not a stop-gap measure– they’re the ideal. They don’t stay long enough to get raises, and they don’t saddle the district with any expensive pension costs. And they’re young and healthy, so even insurance costs are low. Teachers who spend a lifetime in the profession are an expensive nuisance; what we need are a regular supply of compliant short-timers.
…when you look at the agenda of the biggest and richest corporate lobbies in the country, it’s impossible to conclude that they want to see the full flowering of the potential of each little kid in poor cities. To say *I want to cut the minimum wage, I want to prevent cities from passing laws raising wages or requiring sick time, I want to cut food stamps, I want to cut the earned income tax credit, I want to cut home heating assistance. Oh but, by the way, I’m really concerned about the quality of education that poor kids are getting*—it’s just not credible. You’re creating the problem that you now claim to want to solve.
a) Education is a multibillion dollar market, and the private sector is eager to get its hands on those dollars.
b) Conservatives are devoted to the free market and believe that private is inherently superior to public.
c) Shrinking public education furthers the Republican Party goal of drastically reducing the public sector.
d) Privatization undermines teacher unions, a key base of support for the Democratic Party.
e) Privatization rhetoric can be used to woo African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party.
f) All of the above.
Charters claim to be public schools, but in truth are private schools which are run with public money. They should be required to take all students…and provide for their education. Instead, when they run up against students who are more expensive or more difficult to teach, they too often “counsel them out”…or in this case, just kick them out.
…the disproportionate suspension rates are a symptom of a much deeper problem. Charter schools, he says, are using harsh, zero-tolerance discipline to weed out problem students and boost standardized test scores.
“I think there’s strong evidence from [studies] and anecdotally” that support that theory, said Bryant, director of Education Opportunity Network, a public-school policy center. “Charter schools discriminate and select their students in many different ways,” he added, including out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, to winnow out underachievers.
That’s because of the bargain that charter schools have made with the taxpayers that fund them. In exchange for taxpayer money and the freedom to innovate, charter schools are held to a higher academic standard, particularly on student achievement and assessment tests. But because they’re still public schools, Bryant said, they have to accept any kid who wants to attend.
IT’S TIME FOR TEACHERS TO SPEAK UP
How many teachers didn’t vote in the last election?
- If you are a public school teacher, you are involved in politics right now, whether you acknowledge it or not…
- Even if you don’t like the idea of being involved in some sort of job collective, like being active in your union, your critics will lump you together with all other teachers anyway…
- Critics will want you to forget that your democratically-elected union leaders at the local, and state levels have been, and in many cases still are in the classroom, teaching every day…
- If your union falls apart, you will be on your own to negotiate a job or contract up against big-money interests who have teams of staff lawyers just waiting to overwhelm you if there is ever any legal action that you may bring. Don’t believe me? Ask any number of professionals, including doctors and nurses who work for huge hospital corporations…
- If you have any concern for the poorest of your students, you will want them to have the consistency of a good education, right? The original purpose of public schools was to create that kind of consistency…
The only way left for you to not be “political” is to stop being committed to public education. So, welcome to “the collective”, like it or not. Your critics have made sure that you are locked in. [emphasis added]
VAM IS JUNK SCIENCE
The American Statistical Association has already “advised caution” on the use of VAM for teacher evaluations…now a group of professionals does the same. When will “reformers” decide to listen to professionals?
The National Association of Secondary School Principals has entered the loud fray over teacher evaluation, giving preliminary approval to a statement that says test-score-based algorithms for measuring teacher quality aren’t appropriate.
HYPOSCRISY AND HUBRIS
Disgraced former Indiana and Florida Superintendent Tony Bennett had to pay a measly $5000 fine for his dishonesty in dealings with charter schools in Indiana. Now, it turns out that he was using state employees for campaigning…on state time. Those of us who voted for Glenda Ritz also paid, through our taxes, for Bennett to campaign against her. What a hypocrite.
INDIANAPOLIS – A monthslong investigation into former Indiana schools Superintendent Tony Bennett’s use of state staff and resources during his 2012 re-election campaign found ample evidence to support federal wire fraud charges, according to a copy of the 95-page report viewed by The Associated Press.
Despite the recommendation that charges be pursued, Bennett has never faced prosecution for such charges – which could have carried up to 20 years in prison.
The investigation, which was completed by the inspector general’s office in February, found more than 100 instances in which Bennett or his employees violated federal wire fraud law.
That contrasts sharply with an eight-page formal report issued in July that said the office found minimal violations, resulting in a $5,000 fine and an admonishment that Bennett could have avoided fines by rewriting rules to allow some campaign work on state time.
STOP SHOPPING AT WALMART
I cringe when I hear a teacher talk about shopping at Wal-Mart. Aside from the fact that they get taxpayers to foot the bill for billions of dollars in welfare costs, they pay more billions to support charter schools and voucher programs. These people are the epitome of anti-public school privatizers.
When Carrie Walton Penner enrolls her children at a predominately-TFA-staffed charter school as their principal means of formal education, and when she publicizes their test scores as evidence that the charter model she promoted for other people’s children has served her children well, then I will consider the charters that she pays for with money that should go to paying Walmart workers a living wage as being “successful.”
Not a minute sooner.
RELATIONSHIPS MATTER IN SCHOOL
Larry Cuban brought this great video to our attention…
As a historian of school reform, I have written more than I want to remember about those rose-colored, feverish, high-tech dreams that appear time and again promising to transform classroom practice and how students learn. This video is seven minutes long and it vividly captures the hollowness of each generation’s claim that “This Will Revolutionize Education.” But far more important the video zeroes in on the centrality of the teacher to student learning beyond conveying information which new technologies are superb in doing.
THE ABUSE AND MISUSE OF STANDARDIZED TESTS
Here’s what to do when you want to fight against high stakes tests! Send the following to your legislators…often!
1. These tests are untested…
2. These tests don’t tell us where we can improve…
3. The tests distort what and how teachers teach…
4. The tests have shown no positive results…
5. The tests are incredibly costly in both time and money…
5 Things you can do to stop the use of these tests on your child.
1. Share this message with your friends and form a group to fight for change.
2. Send this message to your state legislator demanding an end to this testing.
3. Send this message to your local school board with a letter asking them for support in ending high-stakes testing.
4. Use this information to write a letter to the editor demanding change.
5. Most importantly, refuse* to allow your child to be tested on these high-stakes standardized tests.
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.