Posted in Article Medleys, class size, NEA, NEIFPE, Politics, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, reform, Teachers Unions, WhyTeachersQuit

2016 Medley #14

Why Teachers Quit,
Candidates’ Positions on K-12 Education, Privatization, Unions, Priorities, Poverty, Class Size, Support for Public Education

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

‘In some ways I don’t feel like a teacher at all any more’

It’s happening all over the country and around the world as well.

  • developmentally inappropriate content
  • teaching to the test
  • obsession with data
  • changing “cut” scores
  • more tests
  • frozen salaries
  • media smears
  • new tests
  • cutting budgets and underfunding

A teacher from the UK writes an open resignation letter to Nicky Morgan, a British Conservative Party politician who has been Britain’s secretary of state for education since July 2014.

It’s been happening across the pond, too. Just as standardized test-based corporate school reform has taken hold in the United States, elements of it have also been implemented in England too — and a lot of teachers don’t like it a bit. For some time now, authorities have been increasing school “choice opportunities” for families under the theory that a market approach will force poor-performing schools to improve or close. Standardized testing has increased as well as the consequences for schools if students don’t score well. The reforms, not surprisingly, have not worked the miracles they were intended to.

Polk Teacher’s Resignation Letter Hits a Nerve

…and an American teacher gives up rather than allow herself to be forced into harmful educational practices.

Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. 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.

THE CANDIDATES

The Candidates on Public Education

Blogger Nancy Bailey posted three articles discussing the education policies of the three remaining presidential candidates. Determining their official K-12 education policy is a challenge. Hillary Clinton, the only one of the three with a K-12 Education link on her Issues page, has vague policies which don’t really say anything about her plans for when she is elected. It speaks of “support” in general terms. Bailey got most of the information from candidate speeches and voting records where available.

Here are some excerpts from her posts for each of the three candidates (in the order she posted them).

Education Mirages and Presidential Politics—Hillary Clinton

…she supported lowering class size…

…backed No Child Left Behind…

…said that teachers need better pay…

Clinton seems to support Teach for America, although I have not heard her discuss it. She does, however, speak in terms of a “new” teaching workforce. I believe this is a euphemism for TFA.

Hillary Clinton sees charter schools as public schools. Charter schools were started under the Clinton administration. So when she says she is for public schools it is important that she distinguish between real public schools and charters that are only public because they get tax dollars.

…she is also against vouchers and tax credit scholarships to private schools.

Donald Trump’s Education Mirage

…no one really knows what a President Trump would do when it comes to public schools and education. He complains but offers few real solutions.

Trump constantly says he will get rid of Common Core…

…Trump praises choice and vouchers yet claims school boards and “local” communities should be in charge of schooling.

In his favor, Mr. Trump is liberal leaning when it comes to the student debt crisis. He blames the federal government for profiting off of students.

…Donald Trump is a businessman when he compares schools with a failed telephone company. He believes they should be shut down if they aren’t working!

…doesn’t seem to understand the kinds of failed reforms that have taken place due to business pals who know little about children.

Public Schools With a President Bernie Sanders

  • He voted against No Child Left Behind and was especially against high-stakes standardized testing.
  • He stood by Chicago’s principal and public school activist Troy LaRaviere and students, teachers and parents. He spoke out against LaRaviere’s firing.
  • He, like Clinton, opposes private charter schools and school vouchers.
  • He gets that poverty directly affects students and is concerned about health care, mental health, nutrition, and other supports. He wants wrap-around services for poor children.
  • Sanders did not vote for or against the Every Student Succeeds Act but seemed to support it.
  • In one debate Sanders stated his admiration of Bill Gates. This did not specifically refer to schools. Also, when Jane Sanders was interviewed by Nikhil Goyal and asked about corporate involvement in public schools for The Nation, she said, I think some of them, like Bill and Melinda Gates, have very pure motives.
  • Bernie Sanders did not vote for or against Common Core State Standards. But in early 2015, he voted against an anti-Common Core amendment.
  • In 2001 he voted to authorize $22.8 billion to track student progress through testing.

PRIVATIZATION: REFORM

The assault on public education in North Carolina just keeps on coming

Another state falls to the “reform” monster – vouchers, charters, attacks on teachers. Students end up the losers.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have also embraced charter schools and school vouchers without appropriate accountability, and the teaching profession has been “battered,” as educators are being asked to do much more with much less.

UNION POWER

Teachers’ Unions Are Associated with Higher Student Test Scores

American politics, and the politics of education specifically, doesn’t change based on facts, but here are some to think about: Union teachers increase student test scores more than non-union teachers. Union teachers are better qualified than non-union teachers. Union teachers work more hours than non-union teachers.

Are teachers unions standing in the way of students’ education?

In general, members of unions tend to be more productive due to high-skill training. Over half of union members who are educators, trainers, and librarians have a master’s degree or higher (Figure 2). Compared to their nonunion counterparts, members of teachers’ unions are 16 percentage points more likely to have advanced degrees – which increase the quality and skills of the employee. In addition, union employees earn 22 percent more than non-members in educational occupations. Union teachers also work 14 percent more hours per week than nonunion teachers.

AMERICA’S PRIORITIES

A War for Education

It’s no secret that America’s children are a low national priority. The collective well-being of the nation’s future citizens is only given lip-service. A child is their parents’ responsibility, and if parents can’t (or won’t) provide for them, then screw the kids. This is one more example of American shortsightedness and selfishness…and the tendency we have to work against our own interest, which, in this case, is the education of our future leaders and citizens.

One out of every five American children live in poverty. It’s a national disgrace. It should be a national emergency…

Peter Greene suggests a way to raise the priority of our children. “What if we treated education like a war…”

…we tolerate that sort of thing with real war, considering it part of the cost of Getting the Job Done. You can’t say it’s because resources aren’t infinite and we can only afford to spend so much, because that doesn’t restrain us one whit when i comes time to throw another hundred billion dollars into Iraq or Afghanistan. No, I suspect the truth is less appealing. We just don’t value education and children all that much. Or at least– and I’m afraid this may really be it– not ALL children. I mean, for my own kids, I really will spend whatever it takes (check that college debt total) and do whatever I can for my own kids, but Those Peoples’ Children? I don’t really want to spend a bunch of my money on Those Peoples’ Children.

POVERTY

Science says parents of successful kids have these 13 things in common

Quick quiz…What’s one thing that parents of successful students have in common?

They have enough money to live on. They have enough money not to be homeless. They don’t live in poverty.

Children don’t choose to be poor, but poverty has an effect on their achievement. We know that poverty correlates to lower achievement due to

  • lower birth weight
  • higher exposure to environmental pollutants (such as lead)
  • insufficient medical care
  • food insecurity
  • increased rates of family violence and drug or alcohol abuse 
  • higher mobility and absenteeism
  • lack of preschool
  • lack of summer programs

Every one of those factors are out of the child’s control…and out of the school’s control yet all are associated with lower achievement levels. And “reformers,” even those who are charged with solving the problem of societal poverty, continue to blame schools, teachers, and students for low achievement.

Policy makers should take responsibility for the high level of child poverty in the nation before they blame students’ low achievement on public education, teachers, or the students themselves.

11. They have a higher socioeconomic status.

Tragically, one-fifth of American children grow up in poverty, a situation that severely limits their potential.

It’s getting more extreme. According to Stanford University researcher Sean Reardon, the achievement gap between high- and low-income families “is roughly 30% to 40% larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier.”

As “Drive” author Dan Pink has noted, the higher the income for the parents, the higher the SAT scores for the kids.

“Absent comprehensive and expensive interventions, socioeconomic status is what drives much of educational attainment and performance,” he wrote.

CLASS SIZE MATTERS

What is a “Just-Right” Class Size in Public Schools?

When I started teaching, before the “reformers” in Indiana started their attack on children and public schools, the state had a class size limit built into law for grades K through 3. Kindergarten and first grade had a limit of 18 students per class, 20 in second grade, and 22 in third grade. Researchers, in an Educational Leadership report, said, “…our study data show that students are learning more in smaller classes.” But Project PrimeTime cost too much money. Our students, apparently, weren’t worth it.

In this post, adapted from his new book, A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century, Russ Walsh reminds us that class size does matter. He recommends class size limits for every grade. Check out the entire article for his suggestions.

…class size does matter and it matters especially for low-income and minority children and it is likely to be worth the taxpayers’ money to attempt to keep class sizes down.

SUPPORT YOUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Sharing from NEIFPE and NEA: What can YOU do to help support public education in your community and state?

Are you frustrated about what is happening in public schools? Here are some actions that you CAN do to ensure your child has opportunity for success:

“Here are seven things you can do to raise your hand for equity, get involved, and ensure your child has access to a great public school.

1. Serve on the school board and/or attend school board meetings where you can be vocal and persuasive. Attend school district meetings when academic issues are discussed.

2. Contact school leaders and state education officials to express support for policies that provide all children—no matter their ZIP code—with access to great public schools.

3. Talk to community and faith-based leaders about why they must be involved in the schools in their communities and fight for what’s right for children.

4. Write a letter to your local newspaper editor describing the issues your children face in school and what can be done to help support their teachers.

5. Visit your members of Congress when they are at home so that they appreciate your level of commitment to ensuring great public schools. Or, send them an email from NEA’s Legislative Action Center. (www.nea.org/lac)

6. Talk to local business leaders and military families who understand how educated citizens benefit the economy, communities, and the nation.

7. Discuss education issues with friends who may not have children in public schools. Talk about education when you’re in the grocery store, and at community sporting events. Wherever you are talk about why it is important to support public education!

Want to know what makes a great public school? Check out NEA’s Great Public Schools (GPS) Indicators (www.nea.org/gpsindicators) – a tool that can help you advocate for the policies and practices that are integral to the success of schools and students. Don’t miss the special section on parent and community engagement.”

See also Raise Your Hand for Public Education

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Posted in EskelsenGarcia, NEA, Public Ed, Teaching Career

Our Students’ Voice

In my last post, I took Lily Eskelsen Garcia and the NEA to task for not acting in the best interest of children, teachers, and American public schools.

Today, however, I’d like to thank Lily for her words of support and her understanding of what it actually means to spend a year in a classroom. Here is the story of her flight encounter with a businessman, the “man in the middle seat,” who challenged her to tell him what we really need in public education. Her answer was a simple sentence, and you can click on the link below to hear it, but her deeper answer was something that is important for all teachers to hear and understand.

She said to her audience…

I’m an educator. It’s up to me to educate the “man in the middle seat…”

All public school educators should adopt that attitude. We are the political voice of our students. Without us they are silenced, disenfranchised, and at the mercy of policy makers, most of whom have never taught a day in a public school, who think that privatization is the simple answer to improving our schools.

It’s up to us, America’s educators, to educate our fellow citizens. We can’t make them listen, but they will never hear us if we are silent. American public education is being dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder and it’s our responsibility to shout “STOP!”

Lily listed what public education does for America’s children. Her list is long, but it’s still just a partial list. She didn’t include that we serve some kids two meals a day, provide grief counseling, clothe children who come to school without shoes or coats, help them across the street, give them the opportunity to express themselves through the arts, and provide some with the only safe environment they experience. I’m sure there are more…

She talked very fast, and I think that she stumbled over a few words while she was racing through the list, but to the best of my ability, here is her list..

A plane passenger asked a teacher a kind of rude question about her job. She responded eloquently!

I’m an educator. It’s up to me to educate the “man in the middle seat” as much as to educate a politician about what happens in any given typical school on any given typical day…

  • we serve kids a hot meal,
  • we put bandaids on boo boos,
  • we diversify our curriculum instruction to meet the personal and individual needs of all our students, the blind, the hearing impaired, the physically challenged, the gifted and talented, the chronically tardy, and the medically annoying,
  • we make sure they’ve had their immunizations,
  • we make sure they understand disease control,
  • we teach them to resist drugs, alcohol, tobacco,
  • we give career counseling, pregnancy counseling, mental health counseling,
  • we get them on the bus safely. we take them off the bus safely,
  • we provide computer instruction, sex education,
  • we stop bullying and teach them to say, “I’m sorry” and mean it,
  • we instill an understanding of civil rights, the political process, challenge racism, foster social tolerance, and an appreciation of our cultural and religious diversity,
  • we teach the principles of free enterprise, how to be a good sport,
  • we develop personal responsibility, practice bicycle safety and check for head lice,
  • we provide bilingual education, teach metrics, how to be a wise consumer, exercise for weight control, how to drive a car,
  • we teach the impact of wars, develop collaborative skills, how to tune a violin, how to use reason and evidence to protect the future,
  • we teach them to revere their environment and how to manage their money, how to access information, how to make wise choices, how to balance a checkbook,
  • we teach loyalty to the ideals of a democracy,
  • we build patriotism, good oral hygiene, a respect for the worth and dignity of every individual,
  • we nurture curiosity, encourage a good question, build self esteem,

…and then we teach reading, writing and arithmetic.

~~~

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.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
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.

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Posted in BAT, CampbellBrown, Gates, HClinton, NEA, TFA

NEA: Acting Against Its Own Interest

I’ve never been particularly easy on NEA on this blog…and once again I find myself shaking my head because NEA seems to be acting against its own best interest.

NO ENDORSEMENT

In 2011 I came out against an NEA endorsement of President Obama.

I urge the NEA not to endorse anyone…unless someone comes along who supports public education. As an individual, I will vote for the candidate who, on other issues, most closely fits my beliefs about where the United States should go as a nation, but as an educator I can’t, and won’t, support any of them.

They didn’t listen to me, of course. After the endorsement they came out against Arne Duncan seemingly unaware that Duncan’s work was either directed or approved by the same President Obama they just endorsed for reelection.

The NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA President to communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately to President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that NEA is appalled with Secretary Duncan’s practice of:

…insert a list of things Arne has done such as supporting local decisions to fire all school staff indiscriminately, focusing too heavily on competitive grants that by design leave most students behind, and focusing so heavily on charter schools…

NO TO TFA

Then, a few months later, I objected to then NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s op-ed written jointly with TFA’s Wendy Kopp which called for the “best preparation possible” for America’s teachers. Did Van Roekel think that TFA’s 5 week training qualified as “best preparation” for teachers?

The presence of Kopp’s name on the editorial implies acceptance of TFA as one of those “best preparation possible” routes.

NO TO GATES MONEY

In June of this year I was pleased to hear NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia say, at the NPE conference, that NEA would not accept money from the Gates Foundation. The cheers from the NPE attendees was loud and long. A few days later she walked back that affirmation. Mercedes Schneider wrote…

But Lily Eskelsen Garcia is willing to defend NEA’s continued receiving of Gates funding on a technicality:

NEA doesn’t directly receive the Gates funding. The NEA Foundation does.

And she completely glosses over her verbal agreement at the NPE conference to no longer even collaborate with Gates.

ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT

Where does Hillary Clinton stand on public education issues? NEA has, with Lily’s approval, already endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination despite her ties to corporate “reformers.” We have learned that she is all for reducing testing…

Reducing the role of testing is something I would like to see, but what about teachers being evaluated by test scores, loss of due process, and loss of collective bargaining rights? What about the connection between poverty and low achievement?

What about Charters? What about Race to the Top, Vouchers, and inequity in funding?

NEA shouldn’t endorse anyone until their positions on public education issues are clear. NEA shouldn’t endorse anyone until the NEA-RA approves. I know that the NEA rules allows the Board to endorse a candidate for a primary…and it’s time to change that. Last election cycle, we endorsed someone whose education policy, Race to the Top, was as destructive to public schools and student learning as was NCLB. Haven’t we learned anything from that?

NOW WHAT?

NEA has joined with other groups to “launch a joint campaign to Elevate Educators.” The fact that Campbell Brown loves it makes me nervous!

I’m also concerned because, aside from NEA and AFT, and a few other groups, the “Partners” in TeachStrong are a collection of “reformers” like

  • Groups such as CCSSO, Deans for Impact, Education Post, TNTP, and others discussed by Peter Greene, in Teach Strong: Real Wrong

It concerns me that NEA has joined with these other groups whose goals include the destruction of public education and the teaching profession.

The Badass Teachers Association had this to say,

A Challenge To The TeachStrong Campaign By: Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director, The Badass Teachers Association

To sum it up the #TeachStrong Campaign is just another corporate education reform coalition that ignores

  • Child poverty
  • Institutional racism
  • Destruction of the local school board
  • Destruction of the teaching profession (specifically targeted at Teachers of Color and Veteran Teachers)
  • Destruction of public education

On its surface, the “campaign” might be something which NEA could, or should support, but when you look who is actually participating it becomes just another group of “reformers” trying to increase their bottom line.

For more on #TeachStrong…

~~~

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.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
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.

~~~
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Posted in Election, EskelsenGarcia, HClinton, NEA, O'Malley, Obama, Sanders

I Get a Response From NEA

CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS

Earlier this month I posted about the NEA’s Primary Election endorsement of Hillary Clinton for U.S. President. I included a comment I had written in response to a special ed teacher’s guest blog on Lily Eskelsen-Garcia’s blog.

You can read the guest blog, Proud to Be an Educator for Hillary. Scroll down and you can see a comment. As of this writing, my comment has not been included, however the one comment that is there expresses similar objections to the endorsement. Perhaps mine wasn’t written well enough…or I was too emotional…or confrontational…or impolite. It doesn’t matter. I only mention this to indicate that, apparently, the NEA is willing to read opposing views: something positive.

You can read my comment in my post, Finally, I Rant About NEA’s Endorsement of Hillary.

I submitted an abridged version of my comment a second time. I thought perhaps that it hadn’t been published because it was too long. After that submission, I received a response from NEA which you can read in its entirety at the end of this post.

My point in arguing against the endorsement of Secretary Clinton is not because I disagree with many of her positions on public education, it’s because I don’t know many of her positions on public education. I would argue against the endorsement of any of the three candidates who responded to the NEA’s questionnaire for the same reason.

In her letter to me, Lily provided a link to the interviews she did with the three candidates (all Democrats) who responded to the NEA questionnaire: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders (you can see all the interviews here. Scroll to the bottom section for the complete interviews).

Some of my objections have been answered. Lily asked all three candidates about their views on equality of opportunity, testing, college debt, collective bargaining, and their vision for rescuing the middle class. All three candidates gave essentially the same answers with minimal differences.

  • All children need equality of opportunity and we need to fully fund public education.
  • Too much testing is horrible and we need to fix that.
  • College should be available to all. Debt is bad.
  • Collective bargaining is important for all workers. Unions are important.
  • America’s middle class is shrinking. We need to dump Trickle Down economics and provide health care, a higher minimum wage, and better jobs.

There is nothing about the record of the three candidates on the interview page. There’s a link in the letter from NEA to a summary of Secretary Clinton’s record, but that doesn’t highlight the differences between the candidates. It only tells me, vaguely, what Clinton has done. During the interviews the candidates tooted their own horns freely, so that’s something.

The problem, as I see it, is not that Secretary Clinton is not deserving of NEA’s endorsement. It’s that there is still too much about the candidates that we don’t know. We did this before, with Barack Obama, and for our no-strings-attached support we got Arne Duncan and Race to the Top.

The fault is partially with the candidates. Clinton’s campaign site has a section on K-12 education, but it’s vague and unspecific. Sanders’ and O’Malley’s sites don’t say “boo” about K-12 education. All three discuss universal preschool and affordable college. To earn NEA’s support we ought to get some assurances that we won’t get a DFER, someone who wants to privatize public education, or another Arne Duncan in the office of Secretary of Education.

DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS: WHERE ARE THE DETAILS?

But the lion’s share of the fault is with NEA’s leadership. Where were the questions (or if you asked them, where were the answers) about…

  • Charter schools? I know that Clinton and Sanders are “in favor” of charter schools and that they support charter school accountability, but where are the details?
  • Vouchers? Democrats are generally against vouchers, but in the last few years they have made fewer and fewer comments about vouchers. Where do the candidates stand? Will they work to stop our tax dollars going to religious institutions?
  • No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the reauthorization of ESEA? Where are the questions about the failure of No Child Left Behind, the cost and damaging competition of Race to the Top, and the fact that there is still no renewal of ESEA? Where do they stand on providing support for schools that need more help or are they willing to close schools with high poverty and blame the victims for “failing?”
  • VAM? How do the candidates feel about teacher evaluations being based on student test scores? How about teachers of non-tested areas, such as music and art teachers, being evaluated using reading and math test scores of their students?
  • School letter grades? Should schools be judged by how well their students do on test scores? Is an A school simply one in which the children score high on the state standardized test?
  • Due process? Where do the candidates stand on due process (aka tenure) for K-12 teachers?
  • National Teacher shortage? How will the candidates relieve the national teacher shortage? How will they encourage more students to go into education?
  • Common Core? We know Lily loves her some Common Core, but not all of us do. I find many of the early childhood standards to be developmentally inappropriate. Where do the candidates stand on this issue?
  • The U.S. Education Department? Do they want to save the USED? Right now it’s filled with privatizers, DFERs, and “reformers.” How will a Clinton (or Sanders, or O’Malley) administration differ?

Lily, your questions about equality of opportunity, testing, college debt, collective bargaining, and the middle class were good; The candidates’ desire for universal preschool and affordable college is admirable. But it’s not enough. In the last two presidential elections the NEA supported President Obama because he said the right things. That’s not enough any more. I want more details. We still don’t know if any of these candidates support the corporate privatization of public education. I could make an educated guess, but it would have been nice if my professional association asked more detailed questions, or provided us with the answers to more detailed questions.

The candidates need to earn our endorsement. We need details, not vague references. We need assurances, not campaign sites that don’t even acknowledge the major issues facing today’s public schools, public school teachers, and public school students.

NEA’S RESPONSE TO MY COMMENT

Replying to your message about NEA’s presidential primary recommendation
from 2016presidential@nea.org

…Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts surrounding NEA’s recent primary recommendation of Hillary Clinton for president. I want to spend a few moments highlighting our process since February and, ultimately, our decision to move forward with the Clinton recommendation.
NEA members and leaders have engaged in our primary presidential recommendation process since last February, identifying and reaching out to nearly 25 candidates from both major political parties. Throughout this process, we asked for input from candidates and, equally important, did our best to highlight candidates’ positions on education issues for members like you. Throughout the last few months, we distributed a candidate comparison highlighting each candidate’s positions, hosted a tele-town hall with members to discuss the presidential field, and provided updated candidate positions via social media.

Just three candidates – Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders – met with me to discuss their positions on the issues. Afterward, I made it a priority to ensure all three taped interviews were distributed to NEA members and leaders throughout the country, which you can view right now.

These interviews remind all of us that each candidate is a dear friend of strong public schools and the students and children we work with, and Hillary Clinton’s proven track record, coupled with her comments throughout the recommendation process, is why I brought a recommendation for Secretary Clinton to the NEA PAC Council and Board of Directors for their consideration. Their discussions were thoughtful and robust, and our Board was able to spend time with Secretary Clinton on Saturday to discuss our issues.

Throughout this process, I am proud that NEA’s members and its leaders have had the opportunity to speak on this recommendation, and today I believe there is too much at stake to remain on the sidelines. Please continue to share your views, and go to Strong Public Schools for updates.

Only together can we work to ensure the next president ensures every child has a quality public education regardless of zip code.

Gracias,
Lily

*******************************************************************
Only the individual sender is responsible for the content of the
message, and the message does not necessarily reflect the position
or policy of the National Education Association or its affiliates.

~~~

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.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
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.

~~~
~~~

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Posted in Duncan, Election, EskelsenGarcia, HClinton, NCLB, NEA, Obama, Race to the Top

Finally, I Rant about NEA’s Endorsement of Hillary

Ok…so it took a while and everyone else has probably already said everything there is to say about the NEA supporting Hillary for President in the primaries, but I was looking around at blogs and I read one that triggered a rant.

The stimulus that finally got me going was a guest blogger on Lily’s blog who was Proud to Be an Educator for Hillary.

I have nothing against the teacher who wrote the blog and I did follow her link to Hillary’s Education platform on NEA’s server which said all the right things…well not all of the right things, but some of the right things. Missing, however, was detail about how those things would be accomplished and what they would be replaced with…for example,

Hillary Clinton supports reducing the role of standardized tests in public education, and she supports NEA’s push to create an opportunity dashboard, understanding the multiple measures that we must address and monitor to truly close the opportunity achievement gaps between students. She has committed to fighting to provide equal opportunity to have access to arts education, school nurses, librarians, and counselors, and funding so all students can succeed, regardless of their ZIP code.

Sounds great, right? Reducing the role of testing is something I would like to see, but what about teachers being evaluated by test scores, loss of due process, and loss of collective bargaining rights? What about the connection between poverty and low achievement?

Furthermore, how does her policy differ from that of Bernie Sanders? Martin O’Malley? Lawrence Lessig (did you even know he was running? Read Republic, Lost)? or other candidates?

Mrs. Clinton may indeed be the candidate we ought to support, however, I think we need to have more information before we endorse someone.

Here’s what I wrote as a response to An Educator for Hillary (I’ve fixed a couple of typos, added a link, and made one sentence bold).

The NEA board has decided for the rest of us that there is no need to get any assurances that our endorsement for a candidate will bring support for public education other than some vague references to “every child and teacher will get support.”

What is Hillary’s stand on Charter schools and the massive amounts of corruption which privatization has brought to so many states and school districts? More accountability? What does accountability mean for charter schools? More tests? Publicly elected school boards? Open enrollment or will Charters still be allowed to skim the cream? Will charters still be allowed to hire “teachers” with no credentials?

What is Hillary’s stand on the Common Core? We know Lily loves it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not developmentally inappropriate. What about the cut scores manipulated by state houses and governors in order to “prove that public education is failing?” What about the overuse and misuse of standardized testing — both Common Core related and otherwise?

What is Hillary’s stand on vouchers? Will there be any attempt to do away with public tax money going to religious schools?

What about due process for K-12 teachers (aka tenure)? Collective bargaining? Where are the details to Hillary’s education platform? What about test based evaluations? What about Teacher for America?

Why didn’t we get (or get to see) the details BEFORE we endorsed someone?

In 2008 we endorsed President Obama who “sincerely” told us that we didn’t devote our lives to testing…we devoted our lives to teaching and teaching is what we ought to be allowed to do. That, and a “seat at the table” was enough for us…endorsement done. Look what we got…Arne Duncan — who never set foot in a public school as either a student or a teacher — and Race to the Top which doubled down on No Child Left Behind’s labeling of low test takers as losers. Arne Duncan, who cheered when an entire school full of teachers in Rhode Island were fired because the school was “low achieving” (aka filled with high poverty students). Arne Duncan, who manipulated federal dollars meant for low income students so that it became a contest to see which states could raise the caps on Charters fast enough and evaluate teachers based on test scores.

A seat at the table? Haven’t we learned anything?

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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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A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
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.

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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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Posted in NEA, Public Ed

Public Education: An Investment in America

This morning I watched Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of NEA, present the keynote address to the 7000-plus delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly currently meeting in Orlando, Florida. In it she quoted from her “favorite poem” titled The New American Dream written by Carolyn Warner, former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The New American Dream

Give me your hungry children, your sick children,
Your homeless and abused children.
Give me your children who need love
as badly as they need learning.
Give me your children who have talents and gifts and skills.
Give me your children who have none.
Give them all to me, in whatever form they come, and the people within these walls will help
Give you the doctors and the engineers and the scientists and the lawyers and the ministers and the teachers of tomorrow. We will give you the mothers and the fathers, the thinkers and the builders, the artists and the dreamers.
We will give you the nation of tomorrow.
We will give you the future of America.
We will give you the American Dream.

Supporting our local, state and national public schools is an investment in our nation’s future — not an expense.

1. Spending on public education tends to decrease income inequality. This is even true when there are “adjustments made for other factors affecting income inequality.”
2. Spending on public education decreases income inequality mostly by “contributing more to lower incomes than to higher incomes.”
3. Public education expenditures also contribute to reductions in poverty rates. This is, of course, consistent with the finding that “increased public education expenditures decrease income inequality by increasing lower incomes.”
4. “Greater income equality, increased lower incomes, and reduced poverty rates all lead to other non-economic social benefits, such as reduced crime rates and improvements in the quality of life.” More specifically, “states with greater expenditures on public education seemed to have fewer incidences of property crime.”

Public schools accept all children. Public school teachers teach all children. Public education works for everyone.

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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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