On Being a Teacher, Privatization, Charters,
The Gates Paradox, Elections
WHAT DO WE DO?
Diane Ravitch discusses education “reform” in New York at CUNY. At the end of the video (at about 1:01:30) she tells us what we must do…educate the public.
How do you make education better by having people as teachers who have no credentials as teachers, and have no experience? How does that improve education? How do you improve education when there are governors in this country that have cut the budget by billions of dollars?
…People must be informed. The public must understand what’s going on and that’s the job of education. Most of us are educators. We should educate the public. [emphasis added]
INDIANA: PENCE VS. RITZ
When Barack Obama was elected president Mitch McConnell announced that his goal would be the failure of the Obama presidency. When Mike Pence took the governor’s seat in 2012 he didn’t announce that he wanted Glenda Ritz to fail, but he has done everything in his power to assure that it happened…from starting his own, personal, shadow Department of Education, to directing the members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) to block everything she wanted to do, to finally, calling on the supermajority in the legislature to undermine her authority as chair of the SBOE.
Pence’s proposal injects a new twist. Instead of ousting Ritz, the change drains a huge amount of her remaining power. The other 10 members of the Board of Education — all appointed by Republican governors — would select their chairperson to set the agenda for education policy in Indiana. Ritz would be reduced to just another member, because the others would certainly not choose her.
Claiming this was “in the interest of restoring trust and harmony,” he then announced his intention to allow his appointed state board members to elect their own chairman, unseating Ritz. If the governor were truly concerned with trust and harmony, he would trust Ritz to represent the people of Indiana. He should remember why Indiana voters chose her.
Ritz ran on a platform of keeping public funds in public schools. Now the governor wants to bleed more of that funding into private schools through unlimited vouchers and charter schools that have no democratically elected, accountable boards.
America’s educators teach America’s children and at the same time are forced to defend themselves from the latest attacks on their profession. Politicians, pundits and policy makers continue to give lip service to the elimination of “bad teachers” in every school and the support of “great teachers” in every classroom, but their actions speak louder than words.
In Indiana, for example, teachers have been stripped of their professionalism by
- loss of collective bargaining
- lack of voice in education policy
- loss of due process
- evaluations based on student test scores
- merit pay based on student test scores
- the disparaging of teaching credentials through REPA III
The empty words praising “great teachers” is followed up by increasing class sizes, fewer resources for needy schools, more money spent on privately run charters and private schools.
The latest attack against teachers is on their schools of education. Secretary Duncan is leading the charge for judging schools of education based on the test scores of their graduates’ students, and the ability of their graduates to get hired. There is no research which indicates that this is an accurate measure of the success for a school of education. There are other factors which come into play…most notably, the socio-economic status of the children teachers teach. Poverty is the number one factor in student test scores…and once again, these same policy makers ignore the fact that our nation leads all other advanced nations in childhood poverty.
During her discussion of the Uses and Abuses of Data in Education Reform at CUNY, Diane Ravitch told us that the U.S. is ranked
- 34th out of 45 in providing high quality early childhood education
- 131 out of 184 in providing good prenatal care
Policy makers don’t want to assume their share of the responsibility for raising our children. It’s easier to blame public schools, and public school teachers.
…there is another factor that contributes towards teacher disillusion, and that is the constant denigration of the profession, including through emphasizing the need to get rid of the “bad apples”.
This incessant sniping will inevitably have an effect on teachers who already feel they are at the sharp-end. Who would want to stay in a profession that is constantly being reminded of its own shortcomings?
As one reader emailed after my article on removing poor teachers was published: “I am constantly trying to improve my practice, and the anti-bad teacher witch-hunt is not helpful. It demoralizes all teachers.”
Active and retired teachers are being told about the local problems that are making it necessary to steal their wages* and raid their earned compensation (pensions**).
What we are being told are lies, distortions, untruths, spun data, etc. meant to shame teachers and distract every citizen who believes the propaganda.
WHO WILL WANT TO TEACH?
Where will the next generation of teachers come from?
Fewer students are going into education…
“The story is more than just Ball State,” [dean of Ball State University’s Teachers College] Jacobson said. “At Ball State and in Indiana and in the nation, there is a decline in individuals coming into teacher preparation and initial licensing.”
The reasons are fairly obvious…
The causes might include the negative portrayal of education by politicians and the media; teacher compensation; teacher evaluations; lack of respect; “the joy of teaching is gone”; morale problems; higher standards (starting in fall 2013, an overall grade point average of 3.0, instead of 2.5, was required for admission to the teaching curriculum at Ball State); and more opportunities for female undergraduates besides traditional careers like teaching and nursing, according to Jacobson.
In late October, Ray Scheele, a political science professor, told The Star Press that teachers “have really felt like they’ve been under attack for several years now, starting in the (Republican Gov. Mitch) Daniels administration.”
He said the issues included charter schools, vouchers, pensions, school funding, test scores and teacher assessments.
WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW, BLAME TEACHERS
Giuliani erroneously claims that merit pay for teachers, charter schools, and vouchers improve education. None of those “reform” methods have been shown to improve education, yet somehow, since the teachers unions are against them, they (the unions) are somehow responsible for the death of Eric Garner by choke-hold.
What did Giuliani do to decrease poverty in NYC?
“Maybe all these left-wing politicians who want to blame police, maybe there’s some blame here that has to go to the teachers union, for refusing to have, uh, for refusing to have schools where teachers are paid for performance, for fighting charter schools, for fighting vouchers, so that we can drastically and dramatically improve education.”
Education is a collaborative enterprise…policy makers, community leaders, teachers, students, and parents all have to work together to help students learn. Ripping communities apart by closing schools, setting up competitive privately run schools to steal students from the public schools, and closing public schools rather than providing resources, doesn’t improve education.
Here’s a “free market fan” who agrees…
I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And (education) is the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed…
The accountability grades clearly show that silver bullet solutions to ‘reform’ public education through the establishment of charter schools is not working. Six in 10 charter schools have earned a grade of ‘D’ or ‘F’. Also today, an ISTA member pointed out to us that traditional public schools averaged 3.3 points, while charter schools averaged only 1.9 points.
The poor performance of charter schools leads us to believe that further siphoning of resources from our community traditional public schools should be stopped. Since charter schools do not fall under the same accountability consequences as traditional public schools, a moratorium should be considered on approving additional charter schools.
The chance you take at a charter school…
Charter schools are publicly funded, but operate independently. Forty-nine charter schools have shut down in South Florida in the last five years, more than 40% owing school districts millions of dollars in tax money–and leaving parents like John and Mariya Wai scrambling to find a new school.
THE GATES PARADOX
Teachers don’t get paid much, so their voices are ignored. Bill Gates and other billionaires are worth billions, so, despite their lack of credentials, their voices are heard in the halls of education policy.
I call it the Gates Paradox – the power of your voice in the “education reform” debate is proportional to the distance from the classroom (and your proximity to Silicon Valley) multiplied by the amount of money you earn. Of course, each additional media outlet owned increases the influence by a factor of ten.
…The Gates Paradox explains not only why educators have been roundly ignored in the education debate but why The Answer is now enshrined as federal law. President Obama’s Department of Education has complete faith in the technocratic, market-based reforms forwarded by the Tech Titans. According to recent speeches, Obama has argued that our schools need a software update, so that students can be downloaded with the “21st century skills” they need to “win the future.”
MORE THAN VOTING
Those who didn’t vote made a choice…and it was the wrong one.
So, what shall we conclude? That you missed an opportunity and skipped an obligation last month by not going to the polls and earning one of those “I Count, I Voted” stickers? Or that you did your duty in 2012 by handing Glenda Ritz one of the widest victory margins of any state office-holder, and the guys in the Statehouse decided your vote didn’t count after all?
Either way, the lesson is clear: Politicians are perfectly happy to claim a mandate when 85 percent of the voting public did not choose them, and politicians will do what their elite supporters dictate regardless of what the people “decide” at the polls…
…So citizens, like the coal companies and the anti-Ritz forces that wish to privatize our schools for profit, must lobby. And picket. And write letters to the editor. And raise hell. And perhaps vote.
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.