Jail for Black Educators, Millions for Bankers
No one should condone the cheating done by teachers and educators in Atlanta (or Las Vegas, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Chicago, NYC, Texas, Los Angeles, and elsewhere), but what punishment is appropriate to fit the crime?
The first thing I always think about when I hear about cheating on standardized tests is that there is an assumption that standardized tests measure student achievement, teacher competency, school effectiveness, and real learning. They don’t. Standardized tests most accurately measure student/family economic status and neighborhood income. Tests are being overused and misused and therein lies the real crime.
That being said, it’s still unethical for educators to manipulate tests in order to protect their jobs, increase their bonuses, or any other reason. Teachers who do so should be removed from the classroom immediately with a loss of their credentials.
Yet it’s important to remember that many teachers around the nation now find themselves in no-win situations. They are required to raise test scores (most often made impossible by legislatures) or risk losing their jobs. Backed into a corner it’s not a surprise that many otherwise honest, hardworking teachers cheat in order to keep feeding their families. It’s easy for outsiders to say they shouldn’t do it, but when faced with loss of job in a difficult market, people often make poor choices. Definitely they should be punished for those poor choices.
What would the appropriate punishment be? 20 years and a racketeering charge like drug dealers and mobsters? A slap on the wrist like the bankers who brought the world economy crashing down? 10 years like the average for first time armed robbery? The threats of harsh sentences for the Atlanta teachers is just another point of proof that American Justice, while she may be wearing a blindfold, can see money very clearly.
You don’t have to consider the Atlanta teachers innocent to know something has gone terribly awry in the country when filling in bubbles on Scan-Tron sheets can get you 20 years, but stealing people’s homes and defrauding pension funds can’t get you indicted. The only way you could see what the justice system has granted bankers as in any way commensurate with what it does to ordinary people is if you grade on a curve.
You decide which is worse- Cheating or Child Abuse.
That we have come to this is telling testimony of the absurdity of annointing raising test scores as the nation’s primary anti-poverty strategy and its path to restoring Global Economic Competitiveness
Peter Greene understands that the educators who cheated in Atlanta are just a few more in a long line of cheaters starting with the main cheat which is No Child Left Behind. The law was based on the so-called “Texas Miracle” — which never actually happened. Greene doesn’t discuss it here, but we can also include the cheat of “Renaissance 2010” from Chicago which gave rise to Race to the Top.
When you nationalize something that only worked because of cheating and tell educators to duplicate it (or else!), you’ll get more cheating.
The fate of the Atlanta cheaters stands in stark contrast to the fate of teachers and administrators cheating across the US. Can I pull up a list and name them? No, nor would I. But I don’t doubt for a fraction of a second that hundreds upon hundreds of schools in this country survived the insanely unattainable politically-set requirements of federal reform by cheating in ways big and small. This can’t be a surprise– school reform’s first big exemplar was the Texas Miracle, which turned out to be nothing more than creative accounting and magic tracking. The federal government literally paraded a big fat lie in front of schools as if it were a model and then said, “Okay, now YOU do that, too!”
BUILDING TOMORROW’S TEACHING CRISIS TODAY
“Reformers” don’t get it. They don’t understand the motivation to teach. If they did they wouldn’t be foisting a “business model” on public education. Teachers don’t walk into a classroom like a salesclerk walks into a retail store, or an hourly assembly line worker walks into a factory. Those folks may love their jobs, but being an educator is more like a novelist struggling with the development of a character…more like an artist mixing colors on a canvas…more like a doctor trying to diagnose a particularly puzzling illness.
Increased pay for educators is great…but so is administrative support, materials, and the opportunity to teach and analyze one’s work.
When “reformers” think they can motivate teachers with more money, or threats…when “reformers” remove all the subtle, personal rewards of teaching and replace them with an obsessive focus on test scores, the incentive to teach is lost…and no amount of money or so-called merit pay will make up for it.
A great school to work in is one where there are the fewest possible obstacles between the teachers and the intrinsic rewards of teaching. And the intrinsic rewards of teaching are, most simply stated, using your skills, knowledge, judgment and efforts to help your students learn and grow, and getting to see the real life results of that growth.
The more obstacles stand between a teacher and the use of those personal skills, knowledge, judgment and effort, the less rewarding it is to work there.
I find it hard to believe that today’s education “reformers” really believe that teaching is a profession at all. If they did, the pressure to make certain only top students enter university-based teacher preparation and then to make sure those students have rigorous preparation would be coupled with similar efforts to raise the attractiveness of teaching as a lifelong career. Instead, reformers act as if they believe that teaching is something you do in your twenties when you are idealistic and want to “give something back” — and then you move on to a “real career” in some other sector. If your charter school bosses like you, perhaps they will make you a school principal before you are 30, or they will set you on a path to become Commission of Education for the state of New York when you are only 36 years old. But mostly, they will thank you for a few years of service and see you off to your grown up life outside of education. After all, reformers’ favorite schools — “no excuses” charters — manage to train their students into “little test taking machines” without very many career teachers, so why should reformers really value teachers who dedicate their entire adult lives to teaching? That people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are dedicated and developing professionals who wish to remain in the classroom must seem like an amusing and quaint anachronism to them.
THE WAR ON TEACHERS
Here’s a perfect example…politics hurts children. The teachers union in New York didn’t support the re-election of Governor Cuomo, so his response is to do as much damage to teachers’ careers as he can. Does he understand that teachers’ working conditions have an impact on students?
This is a bill that is written to oust teachers. It reeks of disrespect. It shows Governor Cuomo’s rage against the people who work with children in public schools every day. This bill is his payback to the teachers’ unions for not endorsing his re-election after he declared himself the lobbyist for charter students (3% of the state’s enrollment)…Enrollments in teacher education programs are collapsing, in New York and across the nation. Those who enter teaching today are either woefully uninformed of the politicians’ hostility towards them or are prepared to fight a long battle for their children and their profession. What kind of society makes war on its teachers?
STEP UP – OPT OUT – BREAK THE RULES
Republicans on the right and Democrats on the left have all bought into the privatization of public education. It’s up to parents and educators to protect, support and rebuild America’s public schools.
It has become increasingly clear that Congress does not have the will to move away from annual high-stakes testing. The bizarre notion that subjecting 9-year-olds to hours of high-stakes tests is a “civil right,” is embedded in the thinking of both parties. Conservatives no longer believe in the local, democratic control of our schools. Progressives refuse to address the effects of poverty, segregation and the destruction of the middle class on student learning. The unimaginative strategy to improve achievement is to make standardized tests longer and harder.
THE LOW PRIORITY OF EDUCATION IN AMERICA
We are a selfish, short-sighted, nation. Our priority is “mine, mine, mine” and our plan for the future is non-existent. Politicians talk about not leaving future generations in debt, and use that as an excuse to justify cutting programs which squander the hopes of those very future citizens. If we actually cared about the future of our nation, about the children who will be leading us in a few short years, we would change our priorities.
“…if money doesn’t matter, then why is it that people who have money send their kids to schools that have many, many more resources?” Gandara adds. “I think fundamentally the problem is that other developed nations have social systems that support families and children in a variety of ways: with childcare, with good health care, with recreational opportunities—with lots of things that support healthy development. We have dumped it all on the schools and said, ‘We’re really not going to provide any of these services. You deal with it, schools.’”
Times aren’t tough; why the hit to schools? by Connie Boesen, a member of the Des Moines, Iowa School Board
Fewer opportunities, larger classes, fewer teachers, ever larger student debt, higher child poverty…is this our plan for the future? Is this how we plan to compete in a global economy?
If Iowa continues down this path of low funding for our schools, this is what we know: We will have fewer teachers, coaches and other adults that can connect with students. We will have fewer course offerings. We will have larger class sizes with less personal attention for each student. We will have fewer opportunities for students to connect with extracurricular activities and the fine arts that excite them to succeed in school.
We are elected to the school board just as the Legislature is elected with responsibilities, rules and timelines to follow. It is disappointing that we are now over a year late in establishing the school funding for the upcoming school year of 2015-2016. Education should not be a political issue but a moral issue of providing all children with great educational opportunities.
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.