Posted in Article Medleys, Legislatures, poverty, Teaching Career, vouchers

2015 Medley #21

Teacher Shortages, Poverty,
Seniority and Hypocrisy,
Vouchers, Education Experts

CRISIS IN TEACHING

The real crisis in teaching is not that there are so many “bad teachers” as “reformers” would have you believe. The real crisis is just beginning; The “reformers” have created a situation in which fewer people will want to devote their careers to teaching. The public schools of the United States are, and will be, facing a serious teacher shortage in the coming years.

Is this the plan? In Indiana “reformers” in the legislature, governor’s office, and State Board of Education have succeeded in lowering the qualifications needed to become a teacher. Charter school laws don’t require trained educators to fill all their classrooms. The U.S. Secretary of Education, along with his “reformist” supporters continue to shout “bad teachers” and are now calling for the “reform” of university level teacher training programs.

The bottom line is, of course, money. Untrained teachers, non-professionals, temporaries, all cost less than career teachers trained in content and pedagogy. There’s no desire to invest in experience and longevity in teaching. It’s too expensive.

The “reforms” designed to make teaching less desirable — loss of collective bargaining rights, pension wars, evaluations based on the junk science of VAM, loss of seniority rights, denial of the value of experience — have combined with budget cuts, loss of salary, and larger class sizes, to shrink the ranks of professional educators as well as students in teacher training programs. Teachers are blamed for low achievement based on economic inequality and poverty. Schools are blamed while legislators and politicians ignore the effects of poverty in their constituent neighborhoods. The relationship between achievement and poverty is well defined (see below – POVERTY). The U.S. has the highest rate of child poverty in the industrialized world, yet the government structure responsible for this condition isn’t called into question. Why not?

As an answer to that last question listen to John Kuhn’s speech at the Save Our Schools March in July of 2011. [For more video from the SOS March see HERE and HERE.]

Starting at about 3:50…

Where is adequate yearly progress for the politicians? Will we have 100% employment by 2014? Will all the children have decent health care and roofs over their heads by their deadline? But wait…they don’t have a deadline. They aren’t “racing” anywhere, are they?

When will our leaders ensure that every American community offers children libraries and little leagues instead of drugs and delinquency?

Lawmakers send you [teachers] into congressional districts that are rife with poverty, rife with crime, drug abuse and poor health care, but lawmakers will never take on the label of legislatively unacceptable  because they do not share the courage of a common school teacher.

I say…I say, let us label our lawmakers like they label teachers. Let us have a hard look at their data. Let us have merit pay in congress.

Congressmen, politicians, if you want our children to grow lush, stop firing the gardeners and start paying the water bill.

Politicians, your fingerprints are on these children. What have you done to help them pass their tests?

President Obama, why don’t you come and join me in the crucible of accountability? We have talked enough about the speck in our teachers’ eyes. Let’s talk about the plank in yours.

The practice of blaming the teachers hasn’t stopped since 2011…and the numbers are starting to show it.

It’s a simple process. Manufacture a crisis of “failing schools.” Place 100% of the blame on educators and make the job unpleasant and less desirable, thereby creating a shortage. Change the rules to allow unqualified, lower paid temps to fill classrooms. This, combined with the privatization of public schools into charters and vouchers for private schools, provides higher profits for those who are sucking public tax money out of public schools.

Meanwhile…fewer Americans are looking at teaching as a career. The deprofessionalization of teachers is happening now.

Who will be teaching your grandchildren?

Fewer people want to be teachers

“There is a negative narrative out there that somehow obscures the actual profession where teachers work with kids,” said Michael Wischnowski, dean of the School of Education at St. John Fisher College.

Fisher has seen the number of new students applying for admission with plans to become teachers drop by about 50 percent — from 991 for the 2010-11 school year to 493 this past school year. And the number of these students who ended up enrolling decreased from 356 in the 2010-11 school year to 173 this past school year.

This scenario is playing out elsewhere.

Schools Struggling to Find Teachers

According to the Indiana Department of Education, the state issued in the 2007/08 school year about 7,500 teaching licenses. In 2013/14, the most recent year for which data were available, the state issued just 934 licenses.

And the state saw the greatest decline among teachers with at least 10 years of experience. The number of those licenses in the last six years fell from 333 to just four, down 99 percent.

…And, Quick said, when the state restricts teacher compensation, reduces teachers’ ability to bargain and increases standardized testing, fewer young people believe that teaching is a good career.

“I think it’s a direct result of the kind of policies and the kind of press that (have) been coming out … in the last decade or so,” Quick said.

We are losing talented, dedicated and experienced teachers and here’s why

The public schools are losing well-qualified and experienced teachers who have made a commitment to our communities and dedicated themselves to teaching our children and yet we are losing them in large numbers. Why?

There are many reasons but for the most part is has to do with the phrase “Education Reform”.

POVERTY

New Illinois Analysis: Test Scores Correlate with School’s Economic Level, Not School’s Quality

Income inequality is growing, so the achievement gap based on income-inequality is also growing. The relationship is indisputable.

The most conclusive research on the correlation of poverty and school achievement is the demographic data of Sean Reardon at Stanford University. Reardon documents that across America’s metropolitan areas the proportion of families living in either very poor or very affluent neighborhoods increased from 15 percent in 1970 to 33 percent by 2009, and the proportion of families living in middle income neighborhoods declined from 65 percent in 1970 to 42 percent in 2009. Reardon also demonstrates that along with growing residential inequality is a simultaneous jump in an income-inequality school achievement gap among children and adolescents. The achievement gap between students with income in the top ten percent and students with income in the bottom ten percent is 30-40 percent wider among children born in 2001 than those born in 1975.

As the School Year Ends, Public Education is in Doubt

Indiana used to be one of those states which invested more in high poverty schools…until the last legislative session. The rules have now changed so we, too, are among those who give more and more money to schools in wealthy areas and cut the percentage of funding going to schools with high poverty levels.

“The entire myth of the ‘failing school’ depends on a refusal to acknowledge the ways that poverty impacts local communities, and how austerity policies and years of underfunding have led to the crises we see now.”

New reports show that most states continue to put less money into public schools than they did before the recession, and about half put less money into schools that serve low-income students than schools that serve the wealthy.

LEGISLATIVE HYPOCRISY OVER SENIORITY

Pennsylvania GOP Lawmakers Demand Seniority For Themselves But Deny It For Teachers

Seniority.

Somehow it’s great for legislators, but really bad for people like public school teachers.

At least that was the decision made by Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House Tuesday. They voted along party lines to allow schools to furlough educators without considering seniority.

But the House’s own leadership structure is largely based on seniority!

Hypocrisy much?

VOUCHERS

Why lawmakers repealed voucher cost calculation

To sell the voucher program to the public the Republicans in the legislature and the Governor’s office claimed it would save money. Now that it doesn’t save money they are doing away with the last vestiges of that sales pitch….a classic bait and switch.

One of the selling points when Indiana’s school voucher program was created in 2011 was that it would save money — because students who got vouchers for private-school tuition would cost the state less than if they attended their local public schools.

Legislators even wrote a formula for calculating the savings and included it in the state budget, along with a plan for distributing the extra money to public schools.

But the savings disappeared as the state expanded the voucher program to include many students who had never attended a public school. The savings became a cost – and the cost grew, reaching $40 million in the 2014-15 school year.

How did state legislators respond? By repealing the cost calculation formula.

….Indiana provides state funding for private schools that aren’t accountable to the public, that can discriminate in admissions and that teach religious doctrine and, in some cases, controversial views of history and current events.

See also Controversial views of history and current events

WHO ARE THE EDUCATION EXPERTS?

Nancy Flanagan, in Who Are the Education Experts?, quoted Ernest Boyer:

The harsh truth is that America is losing sight of its children. In decisions made every day, we are putting them at the very bottom of the agenda. While people endlessly criticize the schools, I’m convinced that the family is a much more imperiled institution than the schools. I’m further convinced that, in many neighborhoods, the public school is, in fact, the only institution that’s still working.

“Reformers” are, for the most part, non-educators. People like Arne Duncan (and his predecessor Margaret Spellings), Bill Gates, and Eli Broad, have never taught in public schools…some, like Duncan and Gates, never even attended public schools as students. How have they become experts in public education when people like Anthony Cody, Carol Burris, your child’s teacher, or your local school’s principal, are not?

Seriously. I’d like to know just who qualifies as an education expert.

The [Detroit Public Schools] elected governance structure has been disenfranchised, to a greater or lesser degree, for over 15 years. Emergency managers, nonprofit advisors, celebrity charter founders, big-ticket consultants and carefully assembled commissions—all touted as expert in transforming public schools—have come and gone. And failed. Their net contribution has been reducing the student population by 75% and amassing incredible debt.

I’m tired of hearing that this is the fault of the only people still slogging along in the public sphere—teachers and school leaders—because they were promised a retirement plan in exchange for years of investment in the community….

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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.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Author:

Retired after 35 years in public education.