Category Archives: Due Process

Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

For the last two decades, the Indiana General Assembly has done its best to hurt Indiana’s public schools and public school teachers. This year is no different. But before we look at this year, let’s take a quick trip back to the past to see what the General Assembly has done to hurt public education in general, and public school teachers in particular.

2011 was the watershed mark for public education in Indiana. We had all been suffering through No Child Left Behind with all its onerous requirements. Then Governor Mitch Daniels (now President of Purdue University) with his sidekick, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, worked diligently with the Republican supermajority in the legislature and the Republican-leaning State Board of Education, to make things as difficult for public education and public educators as they could. Subsequent Governors Pence and Holcomb have continued down the same path. Governor Pence, especially, was blatant in his support for private schools over public (see For Further Reading at the end of this post).

Here are a few things that the Daniels-, Pence-, and Holcomb-led supermajority has done to public schools and public school teachers in Indiana

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

The collective bargaining process has been gutted. Just like other anti-union Republicans, the legislature has passed legislation to restrict collective bargaining to only money and benefits. No longer is it required that school boards negotiate work-related conditions such as class size, preparation time and hours of work. For years, politicians said that all teachers were interested in was “their wallets.” The new collective bargaining law prohibits teachers from negotiating anything else.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

When I started teaching in 1975, Indiana teachers were required to have or work towards a master’s degree. Once the advanced degree was achieved teachers were moved to a higher salary schedule which recognized and rewarded advanced education. Teachers are no longer required to get an advanced degree but are still required to participate in “continuing education” in order to keep their license current. However, an advanced degree or hours above the bachelor’s degree are no longer automatically rewarded; the salary schedules are gone. The educational experience of teachers apparently no longer matters. Testing counts, of course, so Indiana still “rewards” teachers whose students achieve high test scores. Years of experience and advanced education? Not so much.

REPA III

Politicians and pundits will often talk about how we only want the best-qualified teachers in our classrooms. So it’s easy to be confused about the rules that allow untrained educators to walk into a high school classroom on the first day of school. If you have a degree in a high school subject, biology for example, and you have worked in the field for a minimum number of years, say as a sales rep for a laboratory, you can walk into a high school class on the first day of the school year and “teach” biology. Education/pedagogical training is required, but not right away. You can start with no experience or understanding of child/adolescent development, classroom management, or understanding of the learning process. So much for the best qualified.

DUE PROCESS

For years teachers were protected from arbitrary dismissals by the requirement that the administration prove incompetence or other reasons for dismissal through due process. An impartial arbitrator would listen to both sides and make a judgment. A principal who didn’t like a teacher couldn’t just fire a teacher without just cause. That’s no longer the case. The only recourse a teacher has now for an unfair firing is to request a meeting with the Superintendent or the local school board, neither of which would be considered impartial.

FUNDING

Public school funding was cut by $300 million during the Daniels Administration. This money has never been replaced.

Vouchers, which began in 2011, have siphoned more than $800 million from public education. Charter schools, including virtual charters, have also taken money once designated for the public good and put it into private pockets.

CURRENTLY

The bills and amendments discussed below have not yet passed the legislature. They still give an indication of the way in which Indiana public educators are disrespected.

School Safety

School safety has been an important issue especially with the frequency of school shootings and the number of children killed by gun violence every day. Many schools have initiated “active school shooter” training so that the staff would be prepared for an emergency.

Indiana made the national news in March when a local school district allowed the Sheriff’s department in their community to shoot plastic pellets at teachers in order to make the training “more realistic.” Teachers, some of whom sustained injuries, were told to keep the training procedure a secret.

A current amendment to a bill (HB1253) allows this to continue.

Do teachers need to be shot in order to understand the need for school safety? Are teachers unaware of the dangers of gun violence? One teacher who was shot with pellets commented,

“It hurt really bad,” said the woman, who said she was left with bruises, welts and bleeding cuts that took almost two weeks to heal. “You don’t know who you are shooting and what types of experience those individuals had in the past, whether they had PTSD or anything else. And we didn’t know what we were going into.”

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

“What makes it more outrageous is they thought we would need to have that experience of being shot to take this seriously,” she said. “When I thought about it that way, I really started to get angry. Like we are not professionals. It felt belittling.”

Great. So let’s pass a bill which allows people to do that again.

Teacher Pay

Governor Holcomb has called for an increase in teacher pay this year.

Because of a constitutional cap on property taxes, the state legislature is charged with the responsibility of making sure schools have enough funds to operate. So much for “local control.”

Indiana teachers’ real wages have dropped by 15% since 1999. We are well behind the increases in pay given to teachers in surrounding states. The legislature, in order to increase teacher pay, has proposed to increase funding for education by 2.1%. Last year’s inflation rate was 1.9%. The proposed 2.1% will also be used to pay for increases in support of vouchers and charter schools. How much will be left for public school teacher raises?

The legislature, trying to act like a state school board, suggested that school systems be required to use 85% of their state money for teacher salaries. So much for “local control.”

Collective Bargaining

There’s an amendment to a bill (SB390) which will require that a maximum of three collective bargaining meetings between school boards and local teachers associations be private. All the rest of the meetings must be held publicly.

The only reason I can see for this amendment is to make things more difficult for the teachers union. There’s no research to support the idea that schools with open negotiations meetings save more money than schools which negotiate in private. There’s no research to support the idea that this will help teachers teach better, or improve student performance. There is no reason to do this other than to make things more difficult for teachers.

Where is the corresponding legislation to require the same public meeting policy for administrators’ salaries? legislature staff salaries? state department of health workers salaries?

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don’t hate public schools and public school teachers.

One would think we’d be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here’s A Look

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

The basics of everything: Your guide to education issues in Indiana

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Filed under Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Holcomb, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, REPA, SBOE, SchoolFunding, SchoolShootings, Teachers Unions, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career

Just in Case Someone’s Listening

Today is the twelfth anniversary of this blog (see my main blog page, here). In the last dozen years of blogging, the education world hasn’t changed significantly. I started writing in the middle of the No Child Left Behind era, didn’t stop during Race to the Top, and continue now in the era of Betsy the Billionaire.

The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We’re still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same “reformers,” the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.

I should probably rename this blog, “The Dead Horse Blog,” “Think Like Sisyphus,”  “The Wall: Beat Your Head Here,” or maybe simply “Belabored.”

On the other hand, my mission, when I began here, was to have a place to vent. It still works for that despite the depressing political and educational landscape. And who knows, maybe last year’s “Teachers’ Spring” will catch on and the teachers in Indiana will rise up. So I’ll keep going…just in case someone is listening.

Here are a dozen things I wrote in the early years of this blog…mostly about things that haven’t changed yet.

How to Guarantee School Improvement – September 2009

And here’s another idea to guarantee that no child would be left behind…

Legislators, other politicians, and policymakers who are responsible for public education policy must send their children to the lowest performing traditional public school in their home district.

If they did that, I would bet my retirement that America’s public school system would become the envy of the world.

 

Teaching is Doing – January 2014

Nearly half of all teachers leave the field within their first 5 years. Many find out the hard way that they aren’t cut out for teaching…or that it’s not as easy as they thought it would be. Many didn’t realize that it’s not a 6 hours a day, 9 months a year job, but one that takes hours and hours of preparation, thought and work. Many can’t handle the emotional investment in the lives of children.

The old adage which states that “those who can’t, teach” has it backward. Teaching is doing…and it’s those who can’t who must move on to some other, less important line of work.

 

American Schools are Not Failing – October 2014

Homeless children comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in America’s public schools. We know that poverty has a negative effect on student achievement, and homeless students, like other students who live in poverty, have lower achievement levels and a higher dropout rate than children from middle-class families.

Politicians and policymakers can’t solve the problem of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. They dump it on the public schools, and then blame teachers, schools, and students when the problems don’t go away.

American schools are not failing…American policies towards unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are failing.

 

If I Could Go Back and Do It Again – March 2010

This quote names my biggest teaching frustration, written a few months before I retired. Now, eight years later, when I think about the years I spent teaching I try to remember the successes I had – and there were many – but it’s hard to forget the failures. I regret 1) not being able to help all the children I wanted to help, and 2) my failure to reach all the students I should have been able to reach.

My biggest teaching frustration has been allowing myself to do things in the classroom which, while mandated by federal, state and/or local authorities, were things that I knew were not in the best interests of my students.

 

Where Are All the Failing Schools – August 2010

This quote refers to the PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitude Toward the Public Schools. The most recent poll put the respondents who grade their school an A, B, or C, at 81%. Local schools continue to poll well, and even higher for those who know the schools best – parents of public school students.

A majority of 82% of the respondents to the poll do NOT see their local schools as failing giving them a grade of A, B or C. 49% scored their local schools as an A or a B. In other words, the school we know best we score higher than the schools we don’t know. We’re very negative about the quality of schools nationwide. But if such a high percentage of people are giving their own schools average to above average ratings where are all the schools that are doing so poorly?

 

Time For Some Therapy – March 2011

We’ve become a nation of cruel, angry, screamers. The national discussion has become nothing less than a national tantrum.

There’s no room for compromise…no room for discussion. There’s no time for sadness at the death of another human being. There’s no place for cooperation…no desire to work towards a common goal or define a common good.

Find someone to blame. Lash out blindly.

This country needs some serious therapy.

 

The Status Quo Hasn’t Changed – April 2011

When the so-called reformers — the Gates’s, the Broads, the Duncans — rail against the status quo they’re referring to nothing that exists today. The real status quo is a killing curriculum based on mindless bubbles on a test. That’s today’s status quo…and that’s no way to educate children.

 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All – March 2009

For the last three days, I have been administering the Indiana state standardized tests or ISTEP+ to students with learning disabilities. These tests are not valid for these students because they do not measure what they claim to measure.

The test maker, McGraw Hill, claims that the test shows what students have learned and provides diagnostic information for remediation.

However, for these students the tests in their disability area are so difficult that they have 1) no hope of passing, 2) little chance of doing well enough to get a score that would provide anything more than a generalized list of their weak areas.

Students with learning disabilities are enrolled in special education because they are not able to perform at “grade level” in their area of disability. The purpose of special education is to provide extra support for the students so that they will be able to learn as much as they are capable of.

Simply put, the standardized tests that we are giving are not appropriate for all students. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum or test.

 

It’s Time For an Educated Secretary of Education – January 2010

For the last 34 years, I’ve searched for ways to improve my teaching and for ways to reach hard to reach students. The challenge is always there and what we as teachers do affects the lives of children in ways we can’t imagine. It’s frustrating that the people who control what goes on in the public schools of America (in the form of standardized tests, funding, etc) don’t have a clue. Am I self-righteous about my quest to improve my teaching? Yes…of course I am. I have worked hard to learn what I have learned about education and children. To have a basketball player with a degree in Sociology, who NEVER ATTENDED OR WORKED IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL and who is NOT a teacher, lead the nation’s public schools is, dare I say it, irresponsible on the part of the federal government.

 

Follow the Money – March 2010

When you scratch the surface of the current attacks on public education you’ll find big corporations (e.g. Pearson, McGraw-Hill) and wealthy businessmen (e.g. Bill Gates, Eli Broad). There’s money to be made in the new education industry – charters and private schools, vouchers programs, and the re-segregating of the American public school system.

Poverty is still the main issue that WE as teachers have to deal with nationwide.

 

Read Aloud to Your Students Every Day – April 2010

If you don’t read aloud to your students EVERY DAY you’re not doing enough. Every elementary teacher…no matter what grade…should read aloud to his/her students each day. See Jim Trelease’s Web Site and the Read-Aloud Handbook.

 

Due Process: Not Anymore – May 2010

In 2011 the Indiana General Assembly removed due process which gave teachers some job protection.

There’s no doubt that there are inadequate teachers in our schools…and there’s no doubt that teacher’s unions protect their members (which is what unions are supposed to do). However, in Indiana, at least, unions can only guarantee that teachers receive due process. It’s the responsibility of the school leaders, the administrators and school board, to prove just cause that a teacher is incompetent. Believe it or not, teachers unions do not want bad teachers teaching. Tenure in Indiana means that a teacher has to have a hearing in which their inadequacies are proven…they get their day in court to defend themselves against the accusations of those who would fire them. A fair hearing…day in court…confronting the accusers…that’s how we do things in the US.

 

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Filed under Due Process, PDK, Personal History, poverty, Public Ed, read-alouds, Teaching Career, Testing, US DOE

A Big Red “F” For Indiana

Indiana legislators and “reformers” love letter grades…so communities (via their schools) are graded as A through F using already invalid ISTEP scores. Those grades are good for things like getting campaign donations from privatizers, bashing public school teachers, and directing real estate agents to where the money is, but not much else.

Now that the Network for Public Education has given Indiana a grade of F because of the failure to actually help improve student achievement and public education, legislators will likely complain that these grades aren’t valid…that they’re biased (irony alert)…or even more likely, they’ll ignore them completely.

An editorial in Sunday’s (Feb. 14, ’16) Journal Gazette summarizes the report about Indiana…

State gets poor marks in dedication to schools

Indiana earns Fs for supporting teacher professionalism, resisting privatization and investing school funding resources wisely. It earned Ds for rejecting high-stakes testing and giving children a chance for success. Indiana public schools continue to serve the vast majority of students. Public school enrollment this fall was 1,046,146 students, compared to 84,030 non-public students.

The poor mark for high-stakes testing won’t surprise anyone familiar with the state’s continuing struggles with ISTEP+, the standardized test administered to students in grades 3 through 8. Indiana also is among a handful of states requiring third-graders to pass a reading test to be promoted to fourth grade.

The state did get a B in school finance…and a D in High Stakes Testing and Chance for Success, though, as we’ll see I disagree with the High Stakes Testing grade.

The grade card then, is 3 Fs, 2 Ds, and a B – not the worst in the nation (thanks to Arizona, Idaho, Texas and Mississippi), but certainly not anything to be proud of.

The complete report from Network for Public Education (NPE) can be found here

My comments, and my grades, along with NPE’s, cover three of the categories. These three alone would be enough reason to change the political leadership in Indiana in November (if not sooner). Add to that the refusal of the Republican governor to work cooperatively and respectfully with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, an actual teacher, and we have a serious situation for Indiana’s school children.

[On an interesting side note, the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), Glenda Ritz, used to be a Republican. She switched parties in order to help us get rid of former SPI and “reformer” extraordinaire, Tony Bennett. She recognized that his and then Governor Mitch Daniels’ policies were damaging the public schools in our state. Suellen Reed, the SPI before Tony Bennett, also a Republican, is currently on the advisory board of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, a pro-public education group fighting “reform” and privatization. She served for 16 years as SPI under Democratic and Republican Governors in a congenial atmosphere which disappeared with the Daniels/Bennett administration.]

FAIL: HIGH STAKES TESTING

Indiana uses the ISTEP to grade schools and evaluate teachers, neither of which is a valid use of a tool meant for measuring student achievement. Last year’s ISTEP mess has at least encouraged the legislature to rethink the test and likely go with a different provider. However, grading schools and teachers using student achievement test scores will probably continue no matter what test is used.

Indiana also uses the ISTEP to label each school and school system on an A through F scale. Schools and neighborhoods are then either damned or lauded. That judgement is based, for the most part, on the economy of the families whose children attend the school since standardized tests have a direct correlation with family income. The D and F labels attached to low-income schools are detrimental to the community, to its families, and to its children. Students and their families are punished for having low incomes. Teachers are punished for working in high poverty schools.

Furthermore, Indiana uses a reading test, IREAD-3, to prevent students from being promoted from third grade to fourth. The rationale is that they need a year to catch up. Research into retention has shown time and again that students who are behind in third grade don’t catch up through retention, and in fact, fall even further behind. The money for IREAD-3 would be better spent on early intervention (see here, and here, and you might as well check this out, too).

NPE used various criteria in which to give Indiana a D. They also figured their grade before the monumental failure of last year’s ISTEP. My feeling is that the overuse, abuse, and misuse of tests in Indiana is reason enough to award the state a BIG RED F.

NPE Grade – D
My Grade – F

FAIL: PROFESSIONALIZATION OF TEACHING

NPE graded states on their ability to treat teachers with respect as professionals. Indiana fails.

The legislative chairs of the respective education committees (Robert Behning, chair of the House Education Committee, and Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee) seem to take pleasure in depriving public school educators of their rights. In 2011 they led the drive to

  1. eliminate due process for teachers. In the past administrations which wished to terminate a teacher had to allow the teacher a hearing with an impartial mediator. This allowed the teacher to present her case in front of someone who was not involved with the school system and could rule impartially. We call this Due Process. The law was changed in 2011. Now, teachers who are to be terminated can request a meeting with the superintendent or the school board. The chances of a fair and impartial hearing are reduced. This is what was meant by the term tenure in K-12 education in the state. Indiana teachers no longer have it.
  2. reduce collective bargaining to only salary and insurance. Teachers and school systems no longer have the right to negotiate things like class size, evaluations, prep time, or parent teacher conferences. Teachers now must do what they’re told, despite the damage it might do to student learning. The collective bargaining law changes (actually all the law changes in 2011) were meant to punish the teachers unions in Indiana, which they have done, but they also limit the flexibility that school systems have in negotiations as well. The supermajority in Indiana doesn’t seem to understand (or care) that negotiations and bargaining is a process that takes two parties: the teachers and the school system.
  3. use student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers. Why is it that there are fewer “bad” teachers (based on student test scores) in wealthy areas? Why is it that schools in high-poverty areas always seem to have many more “bad” teachers? Because student test scores reflect the level of parental income. Using student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers (and schools) is quite simply a misuse of tests and should be stopped.
  4. force schools to abandon the step-scale for teacher pay and eliminate seniority. Apparently the supermajority and its “reformer” donors don’t consider experience a benefit in public schools. I wonder if they would be happy with an inexperienced teacher for their own child…an inexperienced surgeon taking out their appendix or an inexperienced attorney defending them in court. The truth is, experience matters, in every job or profession.

The legislature and the governor also have a problem listening to the elected educational professional in the government, the State Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz. Instead they’ve worked tirelessly, and successfully, to limit her influence on Indiana’s education policy. Apparently they believe that the auctioneer that leads the Senate education committee, the florist that leads the House education committee, and the radio talk show host who sits in the governor’s chair, all know more about public education than someone who

  • is a National Board Certified Teacher with two masters degrees
  • is a former Teacher of the Year
  • has 33 years of teaching experience in public education

Or perhaps it’s that she’s a Democrat and former union leader who got more votes than their “reformist” friend, Tony Bennett…

Here’s an irony for you…the legislature is “studying” the reason for the looming teacher shortage.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION

Public Education is a public trust. It should be funded and controlled by the public through democratically elected school boards. President John Adams wrote,

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

Indiana has the most expansive voucher program in the nation, diverting millions of dollars from public schools to private, mostly parochial schools.

Indiana politicians also favor privately run charter schools over public schools by methods such as loan forgiveness (even when the school closes), additional special-favor loans to charter schools, and support for the proven failure of virtual charter schools.

In Indiana “failing” public schools end up as “failing” charter schools, which then become “failing” parochial schools getting taxpayer dollars. Instead of redistributing tax money reserved for public education to private corporations and religious organizations, the state ought to help students in struggling schools. In the past, Indiana was one of the few states where struggling schools got higher funding than schools in wealthy areas. That changed in 2015. Now, the better you do on standardized tests, the more money you get.

State budget proposal shifts aid toward wealthy schools

…changes in the funding system proposed Monday appear likely to funnel most of those extra dollars to wealthy and growing suburban school districts, while some of the poorest and shrinking districts could actually get less money.

So, instead of putting money where it’s needed, the state “rewards” schools for high performance, forcing students in poorer areas to do more with less. Those same students are then “blamed” for “failing” and their schools get closed or turned over to a charter company. The failure of the state to provide for the students is blamed on the school, the teachers, and the students, and privatization gets the PR boost, and the profits, it was after all along.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: INDIANA

The state of Indiana is lead by a “reformist” governor and a “reformist” supermajority in both houses of the legislature. Their goals appear to be the complete privatization of public schools, the deprofessionalization of public school teachers, and the elimination of Indiana’s teachers unions, all accomplished through testing.

Things are not likely to change soon. Politicians talk a good game, but they are driven by the need to be reelected, which means they respond to those who pay their campaign expenses, i.e. donors. And the biggest contributors are the corporate donors who use public education tax revenue as a source for profit.

If Indiana wants to improve its public schools…and we ought to pause to think about whether or not that’s actually true…which will benefit all our children and our communities, we’re going to have to change things. Poverty is the main cause of low achievement. As long as Indiana’s 22% child poverty rate, the same rate as the nation’s, continues, we’ll have struggling students. At this point it will take several generations to undo the damage done by the last 12 years of the supermajority legislature and the last two governors.

There are no “silver bullets” when it comes to improving schools. The myth that “three great teachers in a row” can close the achievement gap has always been a ploy. However, if states are willing to invest time and money guided by the right values, we will see steady progress for our public schools and our nation’s children. 

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Filed under Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Evaluations, GradingSchools, IREAD-3, ISTEP, Mitch Daniels, NPE, Pence, poverty, Privatization, retention, Ritz, Teaching Career, Testing

An Open Letter to Indiana’s Public School Teachers

Dear Teachers,

Over the last several years…

  • You have lost many of your collective bargaining rights.
  • You have lost the right to due process when it comes to your job. You can now be fired for teaching hard to educate, and hard to accelerate students because…
  • You have lost the right to use your professional judgment with your students, instead being forced to rely on inadequate and massive amounts of testing — testing which robs you and your students of valuable instructional time. Those same tests are now the basis of your evaluation no matter what happens to your students outside of school. You have no control over their family income, their neighborhood safety issues, their emotional health, or the ability of their parents to get them adequate mental, physical, and dental health care. All of those issues have a bearing on your students’ achievement, yet you alone are held responsible for their academic success or failure.
  • You have lost the right to use your school’s communications to discuss “certain” topics, even while former public officials did the same thing.
  • Your schools have lost millions of dollars of tax money being transferred to private schools and charter schools with the ability to choose their clientele, while your schools must accept every child who enters its doors.
  • Your schools have been forced to spend millions of their scarce dollars on those same inadequate and massive testing programs.

This year, there are bills before the state legislature which will…

  • Allow the State Board of Education to usurp the authority of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Indiana Department of Education.
  • Allow charter and non-public schools to administer different tests than the ones your students are required to take.
  • Allow for a hostile takeover of your bargaining agent.
  • Provide for more forced testing at a younger age…and for that testing to be a larger part of your evaluation. 
  • Eliminate your right to any collective bargaining.

This year the Governor’s plan would…

  • Allow private, parochial, and charter schools to circumvent restrictions which your school must follow.
  • Allow even more tax money to be spent on vouchers and charter schools resulting in fewer resources and larger classes in your public school.
  • Increase the interference of so-called “Merit Pay” plans, which deny adequate financial remuneration to teachers who teach hard to educate and hard to accelerate students.

Public schools are starved of resources…public school teachers are forced to teach in ways which are not conducive to real learning…and then public schools and public school teachers are blamed for low achievement.

The Governor, State Board of Education, and legislature are still trying to negate the State Superintendent of Public Instruction election of 2012. They are still trying to privatize public education. They are still trying to destroy the state’s teachers unions.

Isn’t it time for you to speak up? Your students deserve a fully funded public education system. You deserve a profession of which you can be proud, focused on best practices and professional growth not interference by uneducated and inexperienced politicians.

Learn about what the legislature is doing this year. Their actions will have an impact on you and your ability to teach your students. Stay informed with…

  • the Parent Community Network of Monroe County (on FaceBook)
  • the American Federation of Teachers – Indiana (Website).

At the very least contact your legislators and urge them to end the battle against public education and public school educators.

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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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Filed under Charters, Coll Bargaining, Corp Interest, Due Process, Legislatures, Pence, Ritz, SBOE, Teaching Career, Testing, vouchers

Random Quotes – August 2014

TESTING

The state of Vermont stood strong against the U.S. Department of Education and Arne Duncan. They lost their NCLB waiver, and were forced to send a message to all parents telling them that their schools were “failing.” Instead, they wrote a letter to parents letting them know how federal education policy is failing. It would be nice to see more states do this. Where are all of Indiana’s “local-control” Republicans? An important read…

An Important Message to Vermont Parents and Caregivers

The Vermont Agency of Education does not agree with this federal policy, nor do we agree that all of our schools are low performing.

…It is not realistic to expect every single tested child in every school to score as proficient. Some of our students are very capable, but may have unique learning needs that make it difficult for them to accurately demonstrate their strengths on a standardized test. Some of our children survived traumatic events that preclude good performance on the test when it is administered. Some of our students recently arrived from other countries, and have many valuable talents but may not yet have a good grasp of the academic English used on our assessments. And, some of our students are just kids who for whatever reason are not interested in demonstrating their best work on a standardized test on a given day.

NEA president-elect: Teachers are neither strangers to, nor enemies of, tests.

Too often and in too many places, we have turned the time-tested practice of teach, learn, and test into a system of test, blame, and punish. That’s not right, it’s not education, and it’s not good for our students.

TENURE BATTLES

The battle over tenure isn’t really about tenure…or “bad teachers”…or students rights. It’s about destroying the teachers unions.

Why that ruling against teacher tenure won’t help your schoolchildren

What’s curious about this is that they seem to have a unanimous view about the reason California schools are supposedly so bad: It’s the teachers unions.

Not the imbalance of financial resources between rich districts and poor. Not the social pathologies–poverty, joblessness, racial discrimination, violence–that affect educational attainment in disadvantaged communities.

Not California’s rank at the very bottom of all states in its per-pupil expenditures, at $8,342 (in 2011), according to the quality index published by EducationWeek. That’s 30% below the national average of $11,864, reflecting the consistent shortchanging of the K-12 system by the state.

…”Students Matter has done nothing that will put a needed book or computer in a school,” Cohen observes. “Not one wifi hotspot. Not one more librarian, nurse, or counselor. Not one more paintbrush or musical instrument. Not one hour of instructional aide support for students or professional development for teachers. They don’t have any apparent interest in the more glaring inadequacies that their considerable wealth and PR savvy could help.”

@Campbell_Brown Lawsuit Fails the Test of Common Sense

If teacher tenure and due process is a threat to school quality, why is it that the best public schools in New York State and in the nation, all have strong teacher unions, teacher tenure and due process, and brilliant, independent-minded teachers who stay in their profession over the course of long careers? Do we really want the schools in New York to be like schools in Mississippi or Louisiana, where teachers work in fear of offending legislators, abusive administrators, or self-interested parents, and can be easily removed from their posts for reasons having little to do with the quality of instruction in their classroom?

The Misleading Argument That Blames Teacher Tenure

In short, if you’re a tenured teacher, you are an impediment to Excellence. The only way you can help children is by getting rid of your tenure, standing up straight and walking to Arne Duncan in Washington DC and saying, “Please sir, I want to be fired for any reason. Or for no reason. I want to take personal responsibility for all the ills of society. Neither you, society, poverty, parents, nor children themselves are responsible. I’m ready to be dismissed at the whim of Bill Gates or the Walmart family and I agree with you that Katrina was the bestest thing to happen to the New Orleans education system.” 

CHARTERS

Charter schools are not public schools. They are private schools running with public money. They are for the most part unaccountable to the public.

Tax money should be for public schools, run by elected public officials. As poor a system as that is, at least it’s accountable to the people.

How will charter schools deal with their corruption scandals?

Management companies insist — without much challenge from the state — that taxpayer money they receive to run a school, hire staff and pay suppliers is private, not subject to public disclosure.

Quisenberry, the president of the Michigan charter schools association, said school expenditures are “appropriately public” while “things that would be related to the company itself and its internal operations are appropriately private.”

Greg Lambert, an NHA representative, spelled out the company’s position to the board of the Detroit Enterprise Academy in 2010 when several members were demanding more transparency.

“Mr. Lambert stated that the public dollars became private when they were received by NHA. He further indicated that because NHA is a private company, the information need not be disclosed.”

THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION – CURMUDGUCATION

During my career there were always education fads which came and went. The “next big thing” was always going to make teaching easier, learning better, and everyone happy. Of course that didn’t happen and we were able to take the good things from each fad and toss the hype. Most of those things were, in the long run, worthwhile because they either 1) added something good to the curriculum or pedagogy or 2) gave us an idea of what not to do.

Peter Greene (Curmudgucation) sees a change in that. Now, the “fad” — No Child Left Behind, Common Core — has become the law.

The Permanent Politicizing of Education

The traditional approach is that somebody sells it to the state department of education, and soon, college professors and state ed department employees fan out to do professional development across the state. Teachers listen critically and take back what, in their professional opinion, belongs in their classroom. Rinse and repeat every three to five years.

But CCSS and NCLB dispersed consultants from new educational corporate start-ups, whose argument was not “We’ve brought some ideas that we think will help you.” It was “Politicians have passed some laws that mean you must pay attention to us.” How many PD arguments about effectiveness or validity or educational soundness have been cut short by a presenter who shrugs and says, “You know, we could argue about this all day, but the bottom line is that here’s what the law says.”

NCLB and RttR determined that politics would be the delivery system for delivering educational programs, meaning that folks who want to sell a bridge to Educationville must sell it to politicians, not educators. NCLB was not about winning the hearts and minds of teachers; it was about compelling them to get in line with the force of law. CCSS promoters did not set out to convince educators across the US that CCSS would make schools better; they sold it to federal politicians and high-level bureaucrats.

Greene continues…despairing over the destruction of the teaching profession.

The 21st Century Teacher

She will be a low-skill, low-cost, highly replaceable cog in a big machine. She will not be a bad person, but she will be adrift in an institution that offers her little real help to do a job for which she has little real training, and she will have a damned hard time doing the job well, as much as she may want to. Her one consolation will be that the job won’t be hers for long.

READING WARS

In The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Diane Ravitch blasted the “Balanced Literacy” program in NYC and San Diego.

She didn’t critique the program or it’s value so much as its implementation. It was implemented top-down without necessary teacher buy-in. She was correct, of course, though, in my opinion — as a former Reading Recovery (an important facet of Balanced Literacy) teacher — it was not the Balanced Literacy program that was at fault. It was, like so many other things, forced upon the teachers without adequate professional development. The announcement that “we are now doing Balanced Literacy” came from on-high and anyone who disagreed be damned.

Token professional development was provided and some folks found it worked, but others weren’t convinced and not enough time was spent in actual learning about what Balanced Literacy actually is.

Whether she liked the program — in its true form — or not doesn’t matter. Last week she came out in favor of a “balanced literacy” approach (note the non-caps). In her comments below she states that “Reading teachers understand that students need both phonics and meaning.” In its simplest terms, that is balanced literacy.

A big problem in the U.S. is the lack of time for professional development and the fact that American teachers spend such huge amounts of time — compared with other nations — in direct contact with students. One of the most important facets of the Finnish educational “revolution” is that children are in school for about a half day, teachers spend the rest of the day in collaboration with their peers, study, lesson planning or professional development. When you train your teachers well, the Finns have found, your children don’t need to spend as much time in school.

Why I Don’t Care About the “Reading Wars” Anymore

As for me, I no longer think this “war” is a worthy cause. Reading teachers understand that students need both phonics and meaning. They know that children need to be able to sound out words but that it is boring to do that for weeks on end. Children need meaning. They get it when their teachers read to them, and they get it when they learn to read by themselves.

I am no reading expert, but I can see good sense in both approaches. I have seen balanced literacy classes where children were enjoying reading. I understand the importance of phonics as a tool to help children get off to a strong start. Wise teachers know when and how to use the literacy approach they need. Children’s needs are different. Good teachers know that and don’t need to be told by legislators how to teach. (And for older children, I love grammar, spelling, and diagramming sentences).

I read recently that NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina was reviving balanced literacy in the New York City schools, and some of my old allies wrote to ask if I was outraged. No, I was not. Balanced literacy can co-exist with phonics. Children need both decoding and meaning. Most important, they need to learn the joy of reading. It unlocks the door to the storehouse of knowledge.

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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.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Comments Off on Random Quotes – August 2014

Filed under Charters, Due Process, Public Ed, Quotes, reading, Tenure, Testing

Makin’ Whoopi

MAYBE IT’S IGNORANCE

Ok, so Whoopi Goldberg is 1) either completely ignorant of what “tenure” means to a K-12 teacher or 2) she’s been bought by the corporate “reformers” of television land.

Whoopi, for those of you who don’t know yet…claims to love teachers (yes, her mother was a teacher), but hates “bad” teachers. So, since “bad” teachers are ruining it for everyone we need to support the legal fight against them and against “tenure” laws which give “lifetime employment” to “bad” teachers. Right? Not quite.

Ken Previti, over at Reclaim Reform, suggests that, instead of cursing her, we should educate her…

In defense of Whoopi Goldberg: She needs to be educated about due process.

Please email, tweet or otherwise contact Whoopi with the correct definition of tenure as you educate her about the scapegoating teachers are having inflicted upon them all across America. She needs massive amounts of our input; please help her understand.

This prompted a heated discussion on Diane Ravitch’s blog entry, Ken Previti: In Defense of Whoopi Goldberg. It’s a great discussion…have a look.

THE EDUCATION OF WHOOPI

I don’t see any problem with trying to educate Whoopi Goldberg in the truth of K-12 tenure…as long as we don’t expect it to make a difference.

See, Whoopi might be the “liberal voice” on The View, but that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to public education issues.

Democrats, Liberals, and other fellow travelers

  • When Barack Obama was running for President in 2008 a lot of us — not knowing that he had his hands in corporate pockets — assumed that he would come in and overthrow No Child Left Behind and usher in a new day in public education. Unfortunately, his promising words fizzled once he moved into the White House.

“Don’t label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test…You didn’t devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do.” — Candidate Barack Obama talking to the NEA, Summer 2007

  • Who remembers that Davis Guggenheim was the one who helped Al Gore blow the whistle on the corporate destruction of the environment?
  • What about the Dems in Illinois? Check out Mike Klonsky’s blog if you want to be informed about how the Democrats are treating public educators in the Land of Lincoln. And do I even have to mention the Democratic Mayor of Chicago?
  • How about NY Governor Cuomo — Democrat, right? Let us also not forget that until 2001 Michael Bloomberg was a Democrat.

There is no guarantee that traditional friends of public education will support us…just because they call themselves Democrats or liberals. Just because Whoopi Goldberg is the “liberal voice” on her TV show doesn’t mean that she will support public education the way we want her to.

Teach her the truth about tenure and due process…but don’t hold your breath.

VERGARA

Immediately following the Vergara trial I entered into a discussion with a conservative friend — like Whoopi, a child of a teacher who ought to know better — and he continually tried to partisan-ise the whole issue.

Its funny the CTA is complaining about money when they just spent $2 million in the State Superintendent’s race. They are also attacking Eli Broad, a life long Democrat.

Yeah, like Eli Broad is a “friend of public education.”

…and later…

…One of reasons public education is not discussed now is that Republicans are from suburban/rural districts where their constituents believe they have good schools and they do not want to rock the boat; and the Democrats are mainly from urban areas where they do not want to take on the public teacher unions.

Again…blame the unions for bad teachers.

…and…

There are very little [sic] Republicans left in California; so these are mainly Democrats who are concerned about public education and the power of the CTA. Some schools are in such horrible shape, that the State passed a “Parent Trigger Law”, which allows 51% of parents with children attending a low performing school to sign a petition and force actions such as closing the school down completely, replacing the principal, firing 50% of the teachers, or converting it into a charter school.

His point was that “even the Democrats are in favor of busting the union and getting rid of tenure.” Oh, and the parent trigger will solve all the problems of “public education.”

The surprise was that I wasn’t surprised that Democrats are into “school reform” up to their elbows. I think he was the one who was surprised that I didn’t try to deny the Democrats involvement. He just assumed I was “one of them.”

Here’s an idea…and this is one for Whoopi, too (after all of us educate her):

How would it be if we held a meeting about “bad” teachers in which the local administration presented facts proving that the “bad” teachers were actually “bad.” After all, we wouldn’t want to accidentally fire the “good” teachers, would we? If an impartial observer agreed that the teachers were, indeed, “bad” then we fire them. Just like that! Problem solved.

~~~

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.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

Comments Off on Makin’ Whoopi

Filed under Due Process, Tenure, Whoopi