Caregiving, Bill Gates
WHY TEACHERS QUIT
Two Indiana legislators, State Senator Dennis Kruse and Representative Bob Behning, chairs of their respective legislative body’s education committee, have led the “reform” of public education in Indiana. Behning is a florist turned charter school consultant. Kruse graduated college in 1970 with a degree in education and then went into his family’s auction business. They jointly called for an investigation into the state’s (and by extension, the nation’s) teacher shortage.
The most logical response to their questioning the reasons for the teacher shortage would be for them to look in a mirror. However, now that the investigation is in full swing, it seems that their plan is to deny that there is a teacher shortage. In a marathon committee session earlier this month, “experts” debated whether the data actually showed a teacher shortage at all, while parents and teachers waited almost nine hours to have a chance to speak.
A nearly nine-hour study committee hearing on the teacher shortage issue was stacked to allow so-called expert testimony at the start, leaving parents, school board members and teachers to wait hours to address the handful of committee members left in the nearly empty House Chamber.
Behning and Kruse should listen to teachers. Fewer young people are entering teacher preparation programs and more and more teachers are leaving the field. Here are some voices clearly stating why. The letters are not from Indiana, but the reasons are the same: misguided, inappropriate, and damaging “reform.”
Teachers in our local school system are told not to tell parents that there’s too much testing or that the state and federal governments are requiring inappropriate and often academically damaging practices. Teachers no longer have the freedom to share their expertise with parents. Instead school systems protect themselves from the damage coming from the state and federal governments by pretending it doesn’t exist and not talking about it.
I consider it baffling that telling parents the truth about the harm being done to their children in the public education system is considered an ethical violation of my teaching license, but making their children cry and hate school is not. This affects students and teachers even more so in my field of specialization, Exceptional Student Education (ESE), with our most vulnerable students. Today, I resigned from my school district.
Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.
Only someone with no understanding of public education would insist that schools follow a “business” model. Competition, creating winners and losers, doesn’t work in education. There should be no losers in public education. Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, an Indiana parent and Chairperson of Indiana Coalition for Public Eeducation-Monroe County. spoke at a rally for State Superintendent Glenda Ritz in Indianapolis in February of 2015. She understood that having winners and losers in public education is wrong.
That’s what public education is for: to nurture the citizens of our democracy. These are not businesses, these are schools. Our children should not be in a competition for a quality education because no six year-old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunity. [emphasis in original]
Business which fail are closed. Their owners move on to other businesses or declare bankruptcy and try something different. Public schools, however, are a public trust and ought to be cared for and improved instead of closed. Race to the Top encourages states to close struggling schools and open more and more charters. Charter operators, meanwhile, are all in favor of closing schools so they can try their hand “in the business.” However, when their schools fail, and close, children’s lives and education is disrupted. “Churn” may be good for business, but it’s not good for children and education.
“I was rushing my beautiful, beautiful kindergarten students through their assessment tasks at the end of the year,” Mrs Stroud said.
“I was not giving them the attention that they deserved. I was trying to jump through hoops that the system has put forward.”
The 38-year-old teacher describes it as a lightning-bolt moment with cold sweat and racing heart.
“I realised I wasn’t serving the needs of my students. I was serving the needs of politicians and bureaucrats, and I then found myself in bed for two weeks,” Mrs Stroud said.
“Education today is run on a business model. Schools aren’t business. I don’t want to work in a business. I want to work in a school.”
Children are more than just data points…
The solitary reason that I chose to leave teaching has to do with the politicized environment of education. People may wonder what politics have to do with teaching, and the answer is everything. When policies are made, the impacts come into our lives and change them drastically. Over the past few years, there has been widespread “educational reform.” These reforms have increased the importance of spreadsheets, columns of data, evaluations by inexperienced observers, and the accounting of data in every teacher’s life. The focus has gone away from people; students, parents, teachers, staff, volunteers, and onto data. The most important elements of teaching cannot be quantified onto a spreadsheet and put into a power point. When data is given importance above all else, time and resources are directed as such.
…Helping a child, all children, should be the overriding goal of education. Sadly, that is not what is happening right now. Teachers like me and many others are leaving the profession. I’m not a unique teacher or a special teacher. Every school I have taught in has been filled with teachers taking extra efforts to advocate and support their students. We cannot endorse something we don’t agree with by participating in it. Teachers shouldn’t be leaving the profession because they care too much about children. [emphasis added]
While some states lower qualifications for teachers (Indiana, for example) other states tell experienced teachers that they’re no longer qualified. The Alabama Teacher of the Year has a K-3 license and is National Board Certified as a “Middle Childhood Generalist, certified nationally to teach ages 7 through 12.” The latter is, according to the Alabama Department of Education, not good enough for her to teach 5th grade.
Ann Marie Corgill, Alabama’s 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year — and a finalist for 2015 Teacher of the Year — is quitting. Why?
According to AL.com, the state Department of Education told her she didn’t have the qualifications to teach the fifth grade. The department said it didn’t ask her to resign. Her resignation letter (see below) said in part:
“After 21 years of teaching in grades 1-6, I have no answers as to why this is a problem now, so instead of paying more fees, taking more tests and proving once again that I am qualified to teach, I am resigning.”
DISRESPECTING TEACHERS, CONTINUED
I often agree with SPJ, the writer of the @the chalkface blog, when he writes against the privatization of public education. When he posted his article titled Teachers, Beware of the “Specialists,” however, I strongly disagreed. I told him so in several comments…and blogged about it in my last Medley (See the section, Disrespecting Teachers, Part 2).
After receiving quite a few comments letting him know that he had unfairly criticized an entire classification of teachers (while he was, apparently, talking about some specific teachers in his school/system), he doubled down.
There needs to be accountability for educators who refuse to work with children and instead hunker down in offices, spending hours and hours and hours tacking sticky notes to a data wall.
Again he received comments from me and others telling him that he was not necessarily wrong about the specific teachers in his school about whom he was complaining, but he was painting with a broad stroke and insulting thousands of hard working professionals across the country. One response, by a reader named Gwynne, was especially good.
You of course may give criticism, but you yourself noted that it is critique that leads to dialogue. Criticism, especially global criticism with no support other than “Because I say it is so” is likely to lead to some people suggesting that you might be incomplete, if not outright incorrect, in your observations (as occurred, enough so, that you felt a need to address it again in this blog post).
The discussion has ended…yet a lot of resentment could have been saved had he responded to the first few comments with, “Yes, I was generalizing and should have been more specific about who I was talking about. I apologize to ‘specialists’ who don’t fit the description I gave.”
TEACHING READING IN KINDERGARTEN
Kindergarten has become the new first grade. Is that appropriate? Should we begin formal reading teaching at age 5? With formal teaching comes standardized tests for young children – most of which are less than worthless (Yes, I’m looking at you, DIBELS) – and scripted lessons. Talk about your developmentally inappropriate standards and content.
One of the first things I learned when I was working on my early childhood certification was “Play is children’s work.” We have, I think, forgotten that…
On the other hand, it is part of the work of children in kindergarten and, therefore, part of the responsibility of kindergarten teachers to make sure that every child is ready to become a successful reader. Most of this work can be accomplished through structured play. Here is the literacy knowledge that rising first graders should take with them from kindergarten.
- A rich oral language both spoken and receptive
- A love of books
- An awareness that books can entertain and inform
- A working knowledge of the alphabet
- Concepts about print like how to hold a book, how to turn pages and that print carries the meaning
- The ability to hear and generate rhymes
- The ability to hear and segment sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
- The ability to match sounds to letters (phonics)
- A store of about 25 sight words (the, it, and, I, me)
- The ability to retell a story that has been read aloud
These literacy abilities can be acquired through the following instructional designs:
- Structured play activities where students interact orally and in writing
- Daily read alouds
- Shared reading
- Interactive or shared writing
- Direct teacher instruction (kept brief and focused)
- Word and language games and activities
- Targeted small group instruction
- One-on-one instruction as needed
- Independent reading
- Independent writing
THE DEVALUATION OF CAREGIVING
Caregiving is not valued in terms of pay and it’s not valued in terms of respect. As examples think of jobs like child care workers and nursery school teachers, nurses, and primary school teachers: lower pay…lower social status.
Author Anne-Marie Slaughter thinks it is time to change that…
I now try very hard when I meet somebody to not say immediately, “What do you do?” That’s such a classic American thing. I try to ask a question that will let me see the whole person. “Have you read a good book lately?” or “What did you do last weekend?” I ask something that says we are more than our work.
How many women were journalists, prosecutors, doctors, then took time out for care and dropped off the screen because all anybody wants to know is what they do? And when they say something like, “I’m caring for my parents,” that doesn’t seem to count.
So it’s really changed how I approach other people. When I meet somebody who is caring for someone else, I think to myself, “That’s fabulous. Let me find out more about this person.” And also, when I meet a teacher or a nurse or a therapist or a coach, I immediately think, “This person is doing the most important work in our society.”
GET RID OF GATES
The Network for Public Education has asked everyone to share their newsletter report on Bill Gates.
Do your part to fight back. Share this newsletter and feature report far and wide. Make sure the public understands that the existence of democratically-controlled public schools are at risk. [emphasis original]
It’s worth your time to read. Bill and Melinda Gates ought to get out of the business of promoting the privatization and digitalization of education in the U.S.
…more interesting than [Gates’s] speech, however, was the couples’ conversation with Gwen Ifill, which you can watch here.
From that interview, three things are clear.
- Bill and Melinda do not understand teaching and learning, yet they comfortably assume an air of expertise.
- They view victory as the implementation of their reforms, and while they claim to be all about the metrics, they only select examples that suit their purpose.
- The first couple of reform neither appreciate nor respect the role democracy plays in the governance of public schools.
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.
Click here to sign the petition.
For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.