Posted in AFT, Article Medleys, Duncan, Election, NEA, Teaching Career

2015 Medley #22

Political Endorsements,
Teacher Shortages, Arne Duncan

AFT JUMPS THE GUN

Big news with the AFT leadership endorsing Hillary Clinton…before the primary. In 2011 NEA endorsed President Obama early despite his dismal record in education, but there were no other Democratic candidates, so NEA was saying that they wanted a Democrat over any of the Republicans left in the race at that point.

And NEA endorsed Obama without getting any guarantee that he would rein in Arne Duncan.

Fast forward to 2015 and now AFT endorses Clinton without getting her to change her position on charters or CCSS. She answered the questions on the AFT questionnaire, and had the right answer for vouchers…

I strongly oppose voucher schemes because they divert precious resources away from financially strapped public schools to private schools that are not subject to the same accountability standards or teacher quality standards. It would be harmful to our democracy if we dismantled our public school system through vouchers, and there is no evidence that doing so would improve outcomes for children.

When talking about charters however, she neglected to include the “divert precious resources away from financially strapped public schools” and jumped straight to the transparency and accountability issue…

Charters should be held to the same standards, and to the same level of accountability and transparency to which traditional public schools are held. This includes the requirements of civil rights laws. They can innovate and help improve educational practices. But I also believe that we must go back to the original purpose of charter schools. Where charters are succeeding, we should be doing more to ensure that their innovations can be widely disseminated throughout our traditional public school system. Where they are failing, they should be closed.

I have three objections to her comment about charters. First, I agree that they should be held to the same transparency and accountability as real public schools, but, to get back to the original purpose of charters, they should be run by real public school systems, not private corporations. The big problem with charters is that they, too, suck much needed funds from public schools and drop it into corporate pockets.

Second, she said that voucher schools don’t follow the same “teacher quality standards.” In Indiana, at least, charter schools are allowed to hire non-teachers to fill classrooms — up to 50% of the staff. Charters should also follow the same “teacher quality standards.”

Finally, her last sentence in the quote above is noteworthy. Schools are generally failing because of high levels of student poverty…when charter schools fail it’s because they haven’t understood that children in poverty can’t make up the difference in their experiential differences by simple test-prep. Those charters that have the means, skim for higher achieving children, wealthier children, and children whose parents are more involved. The phrase “failing schools” implies that it is the school that is at fault…not American society for allowing nearly one-fourth of our children to live in poverty. The implication here is that Clinton accepts the “reformist” line that schools “fail” and that public education in the U.S. is “failing.” [For a good discussion of “failing schools” see Reign of Error, by Diane Ravitch.]

So, AFT, and likely NEA to follow, has endorsed another “reformist” for president without getting any guarantee that the attacks on public schools, public school teachers, and their unions will end.

Also see the AFT candidate questionnaires for Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.

Who Is Served by the Unions?

Peter Greene takes AFT to task for their foolishly early endorsement of Clinton. What will AFT get for the endorsement? “Nothing at all.”

What did or will AFT get out of endorsing Clinton? I’m going to predict the answer is “Nothing At All.” Particularly now that she landed the endorsement without even having to make a show of backing public education. This is not realistic politicking. This is giving away milk for free in hopes that someone will then decide to buy your cow.

Teachers do have an interest in having their unions cultivate political power. But the union leaderships interest in political power does not always align with the interests of teachers.

Other commentary about AFT endorsement of Clinton:

TEACHER SHORTAGES

Teacher shortages are exactly what “reformers” want. Since they believe that “anyone can teach” the fact that traditional teacher preparation programs are drying up…the fact that fewer students are going into education as a career…the fact that teachers are leaving the profession in large numbers…is a plus, not a problem.

Untrained teachers, TFA’s who only want to teach for 2 years, and others who think that teaching is an easy way to get summers off, are all cheaper to hire…cheaper to keep…and will leave before they become expensive. They won’t need pensions. They won’t need extended benefits. The bottom line is to privatize America’s schools while spending the least amount of money possible, thereby maximizing profits.

States like Indiana have lowered qualifications for teachers so those school systems who are struggling to fill classroom positions can start to recruit people who aren’t qualified. Is this how we increase achievement?

Indiana schools see shortage of teacher applications

School leaders say state funding constraints, testing pressures and a blame-the-teachers mentality have steered people away from education as a career.

Many education programs have seen their enrollments drop in recent years.

Enrollment in Ball State University’s elementary and kindergarten teacher-preparation programs has fallen 45 percent in the last decade. Other schools are reporting similar declines.

Denise Collins, associate dean with the College of Education at Indiana State University, said enrollment there has fallen 7 percent, and the number of students completing an education degree has dropped 13 percent.

How to keep teachers from leaving the profession

News Flash: Indianapolis teachers are leaving the profession by the hundreds.

Well, this is not news to teachers. We have been predicting this shortage for years as we see veteran teachers retire early and new teachers stay only three to five years. The lack of positive, supportive working conditions, i.e., school culture, is the main reason for teacher flight. How long can a new teacher be subjected to a more than eight hour working day which provides little job satisfaction and little support, to sustain his teaching passion, for $35,000 a year? Not long.

Most public school teachers fall into one of three categories: Those who will leave soon, those who have too many years vested to seek a new career, and those good souls who have accepted the victim mentality of, “It’s all about the kids.”

North Carolina Teacher to General Assembly: “I Can No Longer Afford to Teach”

I realize that no one in Raleigh will care or feel the impact when this one teacher out of 80,000 leaves the classroom. I understand. However, my 160 students will feel the impact. And 160 the next year. And the next. My Professional Learning Community, teachers around the county with whom I collaborate, will be impacted, and their students as well. Young teachers become great when they are mentored by experienced, effective educators, and all their students are impacted as well. When quality teachers leave the classroom, the loss of mentors is yet another effect. This is how the quiet and exponential decline in education happens.

Higher teacher pay may be unpopular, and I am aware it is difficult to see the connection between teacher pay and a quality education for students, so I will try to make it clear. Paying me a salary on which I can live means I can stay in the classroom, and keeping me in the classroom means thousands of students over the next decade would get a quality education from me. It’s that simple.

Teacher shortage “emergency” grows in Oklahoma

Right now, there are approximately one thousand teacher vacancies in Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma State School Board Association (OSSBA)

The emergency certification allows someone without formal training to step into the classroom and teach.

For example, a private sector scientist could become a chemistry teacher if their skill set is comparable and the district specifically requests them.

“Someone who is an accountant and wanted to be a business teacher,” Smith gave as another example. “We’re just trying to accommodate and help schools any way we can to get them through this rough patch.”

That emergency certification lasts till the end of the school year, officials say, and the teacher must achieve certification during the year if they want to continue teaching.

NCLB AND RttT ARE FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS

Education Secretary Duncan’s children to go to Chicago private school he attended

I have said this over and over again…Lame duck Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has never taught in a public school. He never even attended a public school. As a child he attended the University of Chicago Lab school…then went to Harvard. He majored in sociology and played on the basketball team. When he graduated he played professional basketball in Australia, then came home and found a job in the education world. He has no education qualifications…no education credentials.

Yet Duncan is the man who has, for the last 6 and a half years, foisted his “education reform” agenda on America’s schools, school children, and public school teachers.

Race to the Top, often called NCLB on steroids, has done nothing to improve education in the U.S. The money spent by the federal Department of Education has not gone to help the schools and children with the greatest need. It’s gone to help schools in states who toe the line by increasing charter schools, accept the Common Core standards, and evaluate their teachers using test scores — three plans which do nothing to increase achievement.

And what about his own kids? While in Washington D.C. they attended public school in Arlington, Virginia, where the Common Core has not been adopted. Now they have moved back to Chicago and will attend Arne’s alma mater, the University of Chicago Lab School. They will be taught by highly qualified teachers who are union members, and who are not evaluated by their students’ test scores. Arne’s children will not be affected by Arne’s public education policies.

And in a year and a half, Arne will likely go to work for some “reformy” company…

…While Duncan is interested in making his own family’s logistics easy, the very public charter schools that Duncan and his department have supported and pushed for expansion have hastened the closure of many neighborhood public schools, making it more difficult for many families — especially single-parent families — to get their children to schools that are nowhere near their homes. Charter schools have been permitted to open wherever the founders want with no consideration for what cities need to serve all of their students. Charter schools can limit the number of students who attend; traditional public schools can’t. As a result, in urban areas where neighborhood schools have been closed, parents must apply to charter schools and hope to get into one that is near them. It doesn’t always happen….

See also Arne Duncan’s Children Were Never Exposed to Common Core

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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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Retired after 35 years in public education.