Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, Charters, Equity, Finland, kindergarten, poverty, Racism, Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career, Testing

Instead of Equity

Inequity, both economic and racial, in the U.S. is so common, so embedded in our society that no one in America should be surprised to hear what John Green has to say about life expectancy in the video below.

In the doobly doo, below his video, Green links to a study – Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014, wherein we learn…

Much of the variation in life expectancy among [U.S.] counties can be explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.

So, life expectancies, like test scores, are correlated to ZIP codes…

SCHOOL IS ABOUT FINDING YOUR HAPPINESS…

In contrast to the inequity in the U.S., Finland is one of the most equitable societies on the planet. This equity is reflected in Finland’s education system. In his 2015 documentary, Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore asked the Finnish Minister of Education, “If you don’t have standardized tests here in Finland, how do you know which schools are the best?” She responded…

The neighborhood school is the best school. It is not different than the school which can be, for example, situated in the town center, because all the schools in Finland, they are equal.

Equity.

In Finland, the richest families send their children to the same schools as the poorest families. That means, as Moore says,

…the rich parents have to make sure that the public schools are great. And by making the rich kids go to school with everyone else, they grow up with those other kids as friends. And when they become wealthy adults, they have to think twice before they screw them over.

Equity.

Equity in the nation yields equity in education. Equity in education yields high achievement and reinforces equity in the nation. If we were actually interested in improving American education we would do what the Finns have done…and, as Moore said elsewhere in the documentary, the Finnish education system is based on ideas from the United States. We just have to do what we already know.

But, whine the contrarians, “Finland is not the U.S. We can’t just import their whole education system. They’re a smaller country…not so diverse!”

True.

In order to do what Finland has done we would have to support and invest in our children, eliminate the inequity in our society, and…

  • end the racism inherent in America. We would have to heal the damage done by Jim Crow and the nation’s slave past. We can’t build an educationally equitable nation until we have a racially equitable nation.
  • stop dismantling our public schools. When a school system, riddled with poverty, inevitably fails, the solution in the United States is to privatize…to close the schools and replace them with charter schools…instead of working to change the environment and support the schools. Charter schools, however, aren’t the cure to low achievement.

See also…

  • quit trying to fund two or three parallel school systems. We need one public school system for all Americans, poor and wealthy, black and white. As long as there are multiple school systems divided and ranked by economic and racial privilege, there will be “haves” and “have nots.” There will be inequity.

…INSTEAD WE BLAME TEACHERS

A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

Instead of increasing educational equity we point fingers and try to find someone to blame. “Reformers” love to blame teachers.

Instead of giving teachers the professional responsibility of teaching, politicians and policy makers make decisions for public schools. They decide what should be taught and how it should be taught. Then, when their ignorant and inappropriate interference doesn’t result in higher test scores, they blame the teachers.

On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers’ hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.

…INSTEAD WE LOWER STANDARDS FOR TEACHERS

In Arizona, teachers can now be hired with absolutely no training in how to teach

We pass legislation damaging the teaching profession. Then, when fewer young people want to become teachers and a teacher shortage is wreaking havoc on public schools, we claim that “we have to get more ‘good people’ into the classroom,” so we remove licensing restrictions and let anyone teach…

New legislation signed into law in Arizona by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will allow teachers to be hired with no formal teaching training, as long as they have five years of experience in fields “relevant” to the subject they are teaching. What’s “relevant” isn’t clear.

The Arizona law is part of a disturbing trend nationwide to allow teachers without certification or even any teacher preparation to be hired and put immediately to work in the classroom in large part to help close persistent teacher shortages. It plays into a misconception that anyone can teach if they know a particular subject and that it is not really necessary to first learn about curriculum, classroom management and instruction.

ALEC: ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION ACT

ALEC is a voice for lowering standards for teaching. They say, “certification requirements prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession.” That’s true, and that’s as it should be.

They say, “comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals.” What is their definition of “improved teacher quality?” What is their definition of “qualified?”

Teachers need to understand and know their subject area, of course, but they also need to understand educational methods, theory, and style (whatever that means) which ALEC so disrespectfully dismisses.

Why should teachers know anything about education methods, learning theory, classroom management, or child development? If you’re ALEC, the answer is “they don’t.”

Teacher quality is crucial to the improvement of instruction and student performance. However, certification requirements that correspond to state-approved education programs in most states prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession. To obtain an education degree, students must often complete requirements in educational methods, theory, and style rather than in-depth study in a chosen subject area. Comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals. States should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare persons with subject area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and a comprehensive mentoring program.

Paul Lauter: Why Do Dentists Need to be Licensed?

In response to ALEC…

I think we should propose doing away with dental licenses. After all, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a piece of string and a door knob.

…INSTEAD WE OBSESS OVER TESTING

An advertisement from Facebook.

Is this what we ought to be focusing on…better test-prep? In America the purpose of education has become the tests.

Don’t Use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments for Accountability

I’m afraid we have completely lost any valid use of tests in the U.S. Now there’s a move to use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRAs) in order to grade schools and children.

Tests should only be used for the purpose for which they were developed. Any other use is educational malpractice.

…there are also several tempting ways to misuse the results. The Ounce delves into three potential misuses. First, the results should not be used to keep children from entering kindergarten. Not only were these assessments not designed for this purpose, but researchers have cautioned against this practice as it could be harmful to children’s learning.

Another misuse of KRA results is for school or program accountability. According to the Ounce report, some states have begun using these results to hold early learning providers accountable. One example the report highlights is Florida. While Florida has since made changes, the Florida State Board of Education previously used the results from its Kindergarten Readiness Screener to determine how well a state Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) provider prepared 4-year-olds for kindergarten…

…Finally, the Ounce report raised issues with using KRA results for pre-K and kindergarten teacher evaluation. Once again, the assessments are not designed for this purpose…[emphasis added]

INSTEAD…

…of making excuses and blaming school systems, schools, teachers, and students, policy makers should take responsibility for low achievement caused by the nation’s shamefully high rate of child poverty.

…of wasting tax dollars on a second (charters) and third (vouchers) set of schools of dubious quality, trying to duplicate our already neglected public schools, we should invest in our children, in our future, and fully fund a single, free, equitable, public school system.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Public Ed, REPA, Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career, vouchers, WhyTeachersQuit

2015 Medley #16

The War Against Public Education,
Vouchers, A Public Good

THE CONTINUING WAR AGAINST TEACHERS AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Wisconsin may be first to license teachers without degree

The state of Wisconsin is considering a teacher licensing plan which would be even worse than Indiana’s.

In Indiana, if you recall, anyone can teach a subject in a high school if they have a college degree in the subject, a B average, and experience in the field. No training in pedagogy necessary.

Now, a legislator in Wisconsin, Rep. Mary Czaja, thinks that it’s important for schools to be able to hire completely unqualified teachers in order to ease teaching shortages…because, after all, anyone can teach anything that’s not a core subject.

At least in Indiana one must have a college degree in the subject area one wishes to teach…including those unimportant (aka non-tested) subjects. Apparently, in Wisconsin, people who might want to teach non-core subjects, like art, drama or shop, don’t need any expertise (just “relevant experience“). And no one seems to need any pedagogical training…because teaching middle and high school students doesn’t, in their mind, require any training in human development, class management, or learning theory.

This is not law yet, and if the publicity surrounding it is damaging enough, Governor Walker will reject it, rather than take a chance on ruining his already non-existent Presidential campaign possibilities.

The idea that “anyone can teach” isn’t new. The old saying, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches” (thank you G.B. Shaw) incorrectly implies that the profession/art/science/calling of teaching is something which takes no skill. Since “everyone has been to school” the theory goes, it stands to reason that “anyone can teach.” This popular culture concept of teaching-as-easy-part-time-job-that-anyone-can-do is pervasive. The reality, as those of us who have spent time in actual classrooms know, is much different.

Unfortunately, policy makers and “reformers” don’t have to deal with reality. They can make laws and rules based on whim and ignorance in order to achieve their goals which might include, finding jobs for their friends, finding funding for their donors, pandering to special interest groups in order to get votes, and so on. Destroying and privatizing public education is a very lucrative business right now…so closing schools and replacing them with charters, shuffling tax money to religious schools in the form of vouchers, and cutting corners to reduce costs are popular among the ALEC legislative crowd. Since the biggest cost in public education is personnel, cutting corners in that area will maximize profits. What better way to cut personnel costs than to open the field of education up to untrained workers…perhaps minimum wage is next.

Wisconsin may be the first state in the country to certify teachers who don’t have bachelor’s degrees under a provision put in the state budget, a move that has drawn widespread criticism and that Gov. Scott Walker refused to say Thursday whether he supports.

Under the change, anyone with relevant experience could be licensed to teach non-core academic subjects in grades six through 12. They would not need a bachelor’s degree and they could even be a high school dropout.

[See also ‘Breathtaking in its stupidity’: Wisconsin GOP bill would allow high school dropouts to teach high school]

Why America Demonizes Its Teachers

Why is it that the “bad teachers” and “failing schools” are only in high poverty schools?

Policy makers and politicians happily join in the “reformer” chorus blaming “bad teachers” and “failing schools” instead of accepting their share of the responsibility for struggling students and schools.

The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names. There is no “failed schools” problem in America, but only government’s failed policy of “benign neglect” that has blighted inner cities and their schools for generations. One has only to consider the historical reason that caused this urban blight: the decades-old urban planning of sustained and systemic neglect that simply wrote off the inner cities to die on the vine, as state and federal funding was diverted to facilitate “white flight” to the suburbs.

Shaw Friedman: Why the GOP assault on public schools?

Sadly, this is only a partisan issue when one party is in control. Before the last election the Democrats in Illinois went after the teachers and their unions. In Democratically controlled Chicago, Rahm Emanuel continues the “reform” plan of privatization. The governor of New York is determined to destroy the state’s system of public education and the teachers who serve their children. And in D.C. Arne Duncan, the nation’s Secretary of Education, presides over a national movement based on charters, privatization, and the deprofessionalization of teachers. I’m glad that Democrats in Indiana are coming out against the Republican “reform” policies, but I am wary of their motives. If the Democrats come into power…and start to bring in money from Pearson, Gates, and other anti-public donors, will they change their tune? The experience in New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and elsewhere suggests caution.

Only a pro-public education movement, not beholden to one or the other political party, will guarantee that elected officials respond to the needs of our children, our teachers and our schools. In the meantime we have to elect people who will support public schools — no matter what the political party.

Why are we spending $2.8 million to provide scholarship tax breaks to Hoosiers earning $100,000 or more a year? How about it, Tim? Most obscene is we’re spending $100 million in Hoosier tax dollars to subsidize private schools as well as contracts with for-profit, out-of-state corporate school takeover providers. As Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer of Bloomington, chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, wrote eloquently in a recent Op/Ed: “Children who are hungry or living in a car really do have a difficult time paying attention to long division. The new budget gives more dollars to the wealthiest districts while decreasing the aid to the least. Teachers are losing control over what goes on in the classroom because of test-driven “accountability” and most haven’t had a raise in years. Teachers know best how to educate kids.”

New California teaching credentials decline for 10th successive year

What happens when you cause a public education crisis by making “bad teachers” and “failing schools” the scapegoat for what is essentially a nation-wide problem of poverty? What happens when you pass laws putting pressure on teachers to “teach to the test,” and beat the constant drum-beat of public school and public school teacher failure?

Who is going to want to put themselves into a public school teaching position under those circumstances? What prospective teacher is willing to rack up $100,000 in debt for a job with no security, no chance for advancement, and none of the job aspects which promote motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose? Who will want to join a profession being daily bashed and attacked by politicians and the media?

It isn’t the least bit surprising that there is a significant drop in the number of students entering teacher-preparation programs. The article below is about California, but similar situations are occurring in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, North Carolina, and elsewhere.

“Reformers” are no doubt pleased. A lack of qualified teachers opens the door to “alternative” paths to teaching such as Teach for America, lowered qualifications for teacher licensing (see above, Wisconsin May be the First… and REPA III in Indiana), and the resultant lower personnel costs…because profit is the real focus of the privatizers.

Darling-Hammond and other education experts have repeatedly expressed concerns about the potential consequences of a teacher shortage that she said was due to several factors, including major layoffs during the recession, a culture of “teacher bashing” that she said has soured young people from seeking the career, and an increasing demand for teachers that has been met by a declining supply.

The shrinking numbers of teachers receiving credentials has been paralleled by a declining interest in teaching. Enrollments in teacher preparation programs have declined by 75 percent over the past decade – from 77,700 in 2001-02 to 19,933 in the 2012-13 school year, the last year for which figures are available,

Why is it OK to defame teachers?

The editorial is built, without evidence, around the canard that all teachers with experience either are, or soon will become, “dead wood” that ought to be cleared from the forest of public schools by—in the case of Newark—administrators with virtually no (and, in some cases, just plain no) teaching experience. As if experience teaching was itself the cause of poor teaching–what naïve drivel.

How convenient it is for these non-experts to decide that the problems of urban schools are caused by a phantom band of dead wood teachers who, because they are experienced, are thereby at fault for the dismal performance of urban public schools.

VOUCHERS

Governors Push for Private School Vouchers

Mitch Daniels (R) followed by Mike Pence (R) in Indiana…and in this article, Andrew Cuomo (D) in New York (quote below), Scott Walker (R) in Wisconsin and Chris Christie (R) in New Jersey…

Cuomo makes it bipartisan.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: The “Parental Choice in Education Act,” a bill pushed by New York Governor Cuomo, would create a tuition tax credit program—which is nothing more than a backdoor voucher program that would cost the state millions of dollars. The program would cost the state millions of dollars that could otherwise go to public schools in need of money. Tuition tax credit programs have been criticized as being “welfare for the rich.” That is especially true with this program, as many of these publicly-funded private school scholarships could go to families with annual incomes up to $300,000.

THE PUBLIC GOOD

‘Public education is the foundation of a democratic society’

Here is a great letter from Wisconsin. We’ve lost sight of the public good that is American public education…

“…Our public schools are the heart and soul of our communities and serve all students and their families. Public education is the foundation of a democratic society. Previous generations made a moral commitment to us through their investments in public schools. Our generation must renew that moral commitment to our children by investing in their future and our representative democracy by funding our great public schools…” — Joyce Luedke, Wausau

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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 Corporate Charters, Public Ed, Teach For America, Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career

Qualified Teachers

THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALIFICATIONS

Last Tuesday (August 27, 2013) Valerie Strauss featured a piece called, How the public is deceived about ‘highly qualified teachers’. It was written by Kenneth Zeichner, who is

  • a professor of teacher education at the University of Washington, Seattle
  • a professor emeritus in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • a member of the National Academy of Education who has done extensive research on teaching and teacher education
  • a former elementary teacher team leader in the National Teacher Corps.
  • a product of the Philadelphia public school system

Now it’s likely that Professor Zeichner would be disqualified from being an expert on teacher education by the likes of Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel and Michelle Rhee…disqualified because he has real life experience in education as opposed to none for Gates, Duncan, et al and only 3 TFA school years for Rhee. For the “reformers” to acknowledge that Professor Zeichner is an expert when it comes to teacher education would be to admit that they know nothing about it and to call into question their apparent goal of sucking the life out of public educators and public education and selling it to the highest bidder.

Nevertheless, Dr. Zeichner’s 40 years as a teacher educator and his degrees in Urban Education and School Organizational Behavior and Change, Teacher Education, are sufficient for me to accept him as an expert. [Of course, those same “reformers” wouldn’t care a whit about my opinion…I am, after all, just a teacher…and a retired one at that!]

In any case, Dr. Zeichner wrote,

Despite the complexity of the issue (e.g., variation in state certification requirements and district hiring practices, controversy over research methods), the weight of the evidence indicates that full certification matters for teacher quality. Recent studies have also shown that teacher experience matters and that the continual teacher “churn” that is associated with the short tenure of many non-certified teachers is disruptive to students’ learning.

In other words, this expert on teacher education teaches us that…

  1. teachers ought to be certified
  2. experience matters
  3. teacher “churn” (teacher as temp) is bad for student learning

This is exactly what Finland figured out on its way to becoming a world leader in education, which is why they increased requirements for becoming a teacher rather than lowering standards for public school educators, like Indiana has done. Truthfully, this is what most of us have known for decades as well, and not just for education.

No one would suggest that we elect a president who had no experience. The founding fathers knew this as well. That’s why they set an age minimum for the president of 35. Anyone younger wouldn’t have the life-experience needed to lead the nation.

No one would suggest that one choose a surgeon with no experience to perform one’s heart surgery. No one would suggest that one choose a beginner to fill one’s prescription, or roof one’s house, or repair one’s car. Beginners — aka apprentices or interns — might assist, but the person doing the work needs to be an expert. Right?

It has always amazed me that business and legal people who insist that “schools be run like a business” complete with CEOs and “Boards of Directors” would then choose to hire inexperienced and inadequately trained people as teachers. Would they do that with their own businesses? Is that how Bill Gates became a multi-billionaire?

CUTTING CORNERS

Perhaps, when it comes to the education of other people’s children, expertise is less important than cutting corners and increasing profit.

The New York Times reports on a charter company which prefers beginners for educators.

At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice

HOUSTON — Tyler Dowdy just started his third year of teaching at YES Prep West, a charter school here. He figures now is a good time to explore his next step, including applying for a supervisory position at the school.

Mr. Dowdy is 24 years old, which might make his restlessness seem premature. But then, his principal is 28. Across YES Prep’s 13 schools, teachers have an average of two and a half years of experience.

As tens of millions of pupils across the country begin their school year, charter networks are developing what amounts to a youth cult in which teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable and, at times, even desirable. Teachers in the nation’s traditional public schools have an average of close to 14 years of experience, and public school leaders and policy makers have long made it a priority to reduce teacher turnover.

But with teachers confronting the overhaul of evaluations and tenure as well as looming changes in pension benefits, the small but rapidly growing charter school movement — with schools that are publicly financed but privately operated — is pushing to redefine the arc of a teaching career.

Many, if not all of the teachers discussed in this article come from Teach for Awhile America, the program which started out by placing high achieving college graduates as “teachers” in hard to fill positions, but is now being used by “reformers” to provide cheap labor for corporate education factories.

The notion of a foreshortened teaching career was largely introduced by Teach for America, which places high-achieving college graduates into low-income schools for two years. Today, Teach for America places about a third of its recruits in charter schools. [emphasis added]

THE COMMENTS

I generally don’t read comments because I end up getting angry at the level of ignorance of people spouting off the common myths about public education and public educators. However, I did read a few of the comments from the New York Times article above. There were 386 comments when I left..and, truthfully, I haven’t been back to see if there were more. Two, however, piqued my interest…the first from rbowman in Hawaii…

rbowman hawaii
I have been a tenured, successful teacher in 3 different states for close to 30 years. I don’t want to judge the whole TFA movement by a small sample size. Here is my experience. A group of 6 TFA teachers arrived within the past 2+ years. Three left to pursue other opportunities including law school. Another is eyeing medical school after this year and the other 2 I am not sure of their plans are because I haven’t spoken with them. All are young, bright, energetic, and committed. But it is obvious that TFA/teaching is just a step along the way in their path and, seemingly, a nice entry to add to their resume. I recently overheard a 7th TFAer say to another, “After one more year (3rd) I’m going to get a real job,” to which the friend simply nodded her head…

What? “…a real job…”? I’m sorry, but do we really want people teaching our children who look at them as a stepping stone to a “real job?” Is this how we plan to accelerate the learning of struggling students…by providing them with temporary teachers who aren’t in it for the long haul? Shouldn’t we try to attract and retain the best teachers where the students have the highest need?

Let’s hear from one of the young, energetic teachers. We’ll see that the children aren’t the only ones who are being used and abused.

KristenBrooklyn
On the surface, I am the person this article is referring to. I was a TFA corps member in the Bronx for three years and then I left teaching to pursue a graduate program in another field. I knew I had made a short-term commitment and I was fine with that.

However, last year, I decided to go back to teaching and was hired at one of the large charter school networks quoted in this article. I can say that, for the most part, my fellow teachers were the loveliest, most hard-working people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. I was handsomely compensated and had access to resources and technology that no one in my Bronx school could ever dream of. So why did I leave after one year?

It wasn’t because I have a short attention span or because I thought I’d “mastered” the profession, as the article suggests. Ms. Rich writes as if we leave out of arrogance or boredom, which is not only disgusting but grossly inaccurate.

The reason why I left, along with 70% of my school staff that year, was because I was physically and emotionally exhausted. The administration is uncompromising. They know it is easier to cut loose anyone who is struggling, making waves, or who isn’t able to work a 75-hour work week, than to invest in sustainable teaching practices.

This article is the cover story charter networks tell their board of directors to justify massive turnover. Don’t be fooled. If they achieve results on paper, please know that it comes at a human cost.

It seems as if the “reformers'” plan is to overwork teachers so that they’ll leave before they can earn too much money, demand a pension, or other benefits. Then, hire the next wave of young graduates and train them for five weeks in the summer, provide them with the expert mentoring of a “three year veteran” and toss them into a classroom.

I can’t imagine how anyone thinks this is good for children…good for teachers…or good for public education.

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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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Posted in Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career, Testing

Test Scores: Punishing Teachers

Teaching Credentials

There’s one simple reason that “reformers” don’t respect teacher training and experience, education degrees and teachers’ credentials in general — most “reformers” don’t have any. Take a look at this short list of some of the loudest voices in “reform.”

  • Michael Bloomberg (Mayor of NYC, Billionaire) – Johns Hopkins, Electrical Engineering – Harvard, MBA
  • Eli Broad (Billionaire) – Michigan State, Accounting
  • George W. Bush (President when NCLB was passed) – Yale, History
  • Jeb Bush (Former Governor of Florida, Presidential Hopeful) – University of Texas (Austin), Latin American Studies
  • Arne Duncan (US Secretary of Education) – Harvard, Sociology (See information on previous US Secretaries of Education here)
  • Rahm Emanuel (Mayor of Chicago) – Sara Lawrence, Liberal Arts – Northwestern University, Speech and Communications
  • Bill Gates (Billionaire) – Harvard, did not graduate
  • Joel Klein (Former Chancellor, NYC Public Schools) – Harvard, JD Law
  • Barack Obama (Current President, RttT Era) – Occidental College/Columbia, Political Science – Harvard, JD Law  
  • Michelle Rhee (Students First, former TFA teacher) – Cornell, Government – Harvard, Masters Public Policy
  • Alice Walton (Billionaire) – Trinity University (San Antonio), Economics and Finance

This is by no means a complete list, and there are some “reformers” — notably (at least for us in Indiana) Tony Bennett, the former state superintendent of education in Indiana and Florida — who were, at one time, actual teachers.

If you don’t have any education credentials and want to challenge or affect national education policy it’s important that you give yourself the appearance of competence. The people in the above list have chosen to do that, at least in part, by attempting to reduce the value of education licenses, degrees and experience.

In order to promote the lie that “the problem with America’s public education is bad teachers” the credibility of teachers, their training, degrees and experience must be denied and destroyed. The value, then, of advanced degrees is denied, requirements for teaching in public schools, for becoming a principal or superintendent are lowered, and teachers unions are blamed for “protecting bad teachers.” The common refrain from “reformers” is that anyone who knows a particular subject area can teach better than someone who goes through a four year teacher training program. Politicians give lip service to how difficult teaching is and how important it is to have excellent teachers in the classroom, but the actions of politicians, pundits and policy makers contradicts those statements.

The myth of the bad teacher resonates with the general public in part because nearly everyone has been to school and has seen teachers teach. Everyone remembers a “bad” teacher — often defined as “a teacher my parents or I didn’t like” (This is not to deny that “bad” teachers exist, but many, if not most, are weeded out in the first 5 years of their career where nearly 50% quit or are “counseled” out). The memories of their childhood and/or young adulthood in school leads people to believe that teaching is simply providing information and being nice to children. The problem with this is that the memories are distorted by the fact that they are childhood memories complete with the lack of judgment and experience that comes with childhood.

Those of us who have spent any substantial length of time in public school classrooms know how hard it is…we know the obstacles that exist to learning — lack of administrative and/or parental support, lack of materials, childhood poverty, poor facilities, and a myriad of other daily troubles that interfere with teaching and learning. Our opinion, however, like our credentials, is ignored or marginalized.

All over the country teachers are being evaluated with student test scores. The practice is invalid and unreliable, but “reformers” can use low test scores in high poverty areas as “proof” that

  • schools are failing
  • failing schools are fill with bad teachers
  • bad teachers and schools must be replaced with charter schools or voucher supported private schools.

It comes as no surprise then that the next step in the defamation of professional educators is the denial of teachers’ ability to teach by using student test scores as a weapon…and here it is.

Draconian Policy for Weak Teachers

It had to happen eventually. Tennessee will revoke the licenses of teachers whose students fail to post progress on standardized tests (“Teachers Face License Loss,” The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 17). Evidently it isn’t enough to fire these teachers. They have to be punished, and what better way to do so than preventing them from ever teaching again.

Although Rhode Island, Louisiana and Delaware are also considering pulling the licenses of teachers whose students consistently fail to improve test scores, Tennessee is the predictable center of the strategy. It was at the University of Tennessee in 1992 that William Sanders constructed the controversial value-added model being used to evaluate teachers. The state has already abolished collective bargaining for teachers and made it harder for them to earn tenure.

I expect to see other states joining this Draconian movement. I don’t know of any other way to describe it. If the ostensible goal is to improve instruction for students, then why not provide underperforming teachers with help? If they don’t improve after a reasonable period of time, then more drastic action is warranted.

Student test scores now linked to teachers’ licenses

…in a handful of states — Tennessee being the newest, joining Louisiana, Delaware and Rhode Island — some teachers seeking to renew their teaching licenses have to meet certain test-score standards.

Never mind that the standardized tests weren’t designed to evaluate teachers, and that testing experts have warned against using these scores for high-stakes decisions.

The test score madness grows.

“Reformers” are understandably excited about this. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education with no qualifications, is effusive in his praise for this insane policy. Now we can get rid of trained, licensed teachers if they can’t single-handedly overcome the effects of poverty or cure learning disabilities in their classrooms.

Duncan Hails Tennessee for Tying Teacher Licenses to Test scores

“I want to praise Tennessee’s continuing effort to improve support and evaluation for teachers. For too long, in too many places, schools systems have hurt students by treating every teacher the same – failing to identify those who need support and those whose work deserves particular recognition. Tennessee has been a leader in developing systems that do better—and that have earned the support of a growing number of teachers. Tennessee’s new teacher licensure rules continue that effort, by ensuring that decisions on licensure are informed by multiple measures of their effectiveness in the classroom, including measures of student learning. The new system also adds reasonable safeguards to make sure any judgment about teacher performance is fair.”

This is a death sentence for the teaching profession.

The Beat Goes On

In order to continue the destruction of public education and the profession of teaching, new “reformers,” who also have little or no education qualifications, must be appointed to run school systems.

Christie Appoints Very Young Former Wall St. Analyst as Camden Superintendent

Rouhanifard has, at best, six years of experience in the education sector. We’ll find out soon where he did his TFA stint, but I’d lay even odds it was at a charter school*. And it looks like his administrative experience was solely in the front office: he hasn’t run a school, written curriculum, overseen district-level finance, worked in student services…

Look, a LinkedIn resume sometimes masks important work experience. I’ll wait until we know more, but for now: no degrees in education, no experience running a district or even being second- or even third-in-command, no principal experince, very limited teaching experience… and, I’m sorry to say this but it’s true, limited life experience.

Connecticut Commissioner Puts Uncertified Charter Leader in Charge of Turnarounds

Stefan Pryor was named state commissioner of education in Connecticut two years ago.

He was a co-founder of the Achievement First charter chain, which has achieved a certain notoriety for its sky-high suspension rates (even in kindergarten), inflated graduation rates, and its very low numbers of English language learners (or none at all).

…Many “reformers” see certification as an unnecessary hoop or hurdle through which talented people must jump. But every profession has some form of qualifying process, by examination or course-taking or something.

Hairdressers need to be licensed by the state. So do morticians.

Should education function without any qualifications for those who would teach or administer schools?

Career teachers have been systematically left out of the nation’s public education policy making. Their qualifications have been called into question. They are being blamed for all the ills affecting public schools and if any dare to raise a hand in objection they are silenced.

The movement to privatize public education and reduce America’s teaching force to untrained temps is continuing without pause.

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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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Posted in 1000 Words, Early Childhood, Politics, SchoolFunding, Teacher Licensing, Testing

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – June 2013

Here are some pictures, graphic images and cartoons from around the net — plus my own 2 cents worth of comments. Click on any image to see the full sized version.

One Size Fits Few

The problem with relying on standardized tests for evaluating children, teachers, administrators and schools is that there are no standardized children. Every child is different…and half, by definition, will be below average on any given norm-referenced test.

Each child needs to grow at their own pace. Teachers and schools should foster student development, but you can’t force someone to learn when they’re not ready.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

Early Learning Day of Action

Today was the Early Learning Day of Action

Think Progress listed Five Surprising Facts About Early Childhood Education.

  1. Preschool can help combat crime, teen pregnancy, and high school dropout rates.
  2. Early childhood education has a better return on investment than the stock market.
  3. The U.S. lags behind almost every other country when it comes to preschool, including Mexico, Chile, and Russia.
  4. Early childhood education is a bipartisan issue.
  5. Preschool can save families thousands of dollars in child care costs each year.

Would You Let Your Plumber Fix Your Car?

Would you ask a computer tech for legal advice…would you ask an attorney to fix your damaged hard drive…would you call your plumber when your car needed to be repaired? Probably not. Yet day after day people with little or no experience in education make decisions which have an impact on teachers, students and schools.

Arne Duncan, a professional basketball player and sociology major is the US Secretary of Education and regularly promotes education policy.

Bill Gates, a computer guru turned entrepreneur turned billionaire turned philanthropist, keeps throwing money at education “reform.”

Legislators in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and across the country make laws which damage public education and public school educators.

In what other field are the experts ignored so completely? Check the backgrounds of “Reformers…”

Money Talks

Children who live in poverty need more services than children of the wealthy, though in actual practice the opposite is what is usually the case. One of the main points of the Chicago Teachers Union strike in 2012 was the lack of wraparound services.

Part 3 of the report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve, called for appropriate support services (see pp. 9) including school nurses, social workers, counselors, psychologists and adequate transportation. They also called for a “well rounded curriculum,” including the arts, early childhood education, bilingual education, and quality school facilities.

“Reformers” are fond of denying that money improves education until it comes to either their own education (Duncan, Rhee, and Gates all attended expensive private schools). If money works to improve the education of the children of the wealthy, then the same resources need to be available to the children of the poor. They need more services…not less.

Friends

I’ve been saving this photo for a long time.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Corporate Charters, Legislatures, Teacher Licensing, vouchers

On Wisconsin

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is sneaky…instead of taking his privatization agenda out into the open for discussion and debate he tossed some education policies into the budget bill where they could remain hidden until it was too late.

WI Gov. Walker pushes extremist ALEC education agenda through budget, bypassing public

…at least 46 non-budgetary items have been slipped into the proposed 2013-2015 budget, including ALEC-connected proposals limiting local school board oversight for charter schools, expanding “voucher” programs, and creating new teaching licenses for individuals with no education background.

Hoosiers who followed the work of the Indiana Legislature earlier this year will find those items familiar…

CHARTERS*

  • Wisconsin

Wisconsin created a “Charter School Oversight Board.”

One budget provision creates a “Charter School Oversight Board” that would approve nonprofit entities as independent charter school authorizers. It tracks the general ideas in the ALEC Next Generation Charter Schools Act.

Currently, only local school boards, elected by the community, can authorize a charter school; in Milwaukee, the Common Council and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are also authorizers.

The same legislators who scream bloody murder when the federal government wrests local control away from the public are here voting for the state to do the same.

“There would be no local control here,” Mead says. “It would wrest control from school boards, and likewise from the community that elects those school boards.”

  • Indiana

Indiana already has that…

Meet The Other Group That Can Charter Schools In Indy – Indiana’s Charter School Board

…two years ago, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law that created a statewide board that could also accept applications for charter and approve applications for charter schools to open anywhere in Indiana.

Local control?

And…to add insult to injury…

Indiana Charter Schools Could Be Forgiven $12M in Loans

Seven schools whose charters were revoked by Ball State University in January would be absolved of payments along with another school which did not seek to renew its charter. The Indiana Department of Education loaned the money to the schools to help them with startup costs.

What about the $300 million that the state sucked out of the school budgets during the Great Recession?

VOUCHERS

  • Wisconsin

The plan is to spend more money on the voucher program like the one in Milwaukee which hasn’t worked for the last 20 years.

The budget also expands the school voucher program that diverts taxpayer dollars away from public schools to subsidize private and for-profit schools, not only by increasing funding for vouchers, but also by requiring voucher programs in any district with more than two schools deemed “failing.” The private school accepting the student would receive the aid for the student and the former school would lose it. This reflects the principles in the ALEC Education Accountability Act.

  • Indiana

This year the Indiana Legislature expanded our “state of the nation” voucher program.

It took last-minute changes and precisely-timed legislative maneuvering to complete passage of the voucher expansion bill on the last day of the session. As I left the Statehouse at 1am Saturday morning after both the voucher bill and the budget bill had passed…

PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS

  • Wisconsin

Bad teachers are causing public schools to fail, so we lower the standards for becoming a teacher…

Another budget provision would create a new teaching license for individuals with no formal education background but subject-matter experience to teach in charter schools. This reflects the ALEC Alternative Certification Act.

Lower the standards to improve the profession?

The legislature recently created a new educator effectiveness evaluation system that ratchets up state oversight over teachers by creating performance criteria based on student performance and other standards. But at the same time, with this bill, Republicans are simultaneously reducing requirements for becoming a teacher

  • Indiana

In Indiana, it’s not just teachers who don’t need to know anything about education…but principals and superintendents, too.

Teachers: Bennett and Co. Double Down on the Nonsense

Last month the no-nothings on the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE) decided — in the face of substantial public objection — to allow anyone with a college degree to teach the subject of their degree area in the public schools of Indiana…no education training necessary. The idea that you have to know your subject to teach apparently trumped the idea that you have to know how to teach.

Principals: Non-Sense

The new rules also reduce the teaching experience needed for a person to get a principal’s license from 5 years to 2.

Superintendents: Unqualified – Unbelievable

…the [Indiana] House passed the bill saying that neither a teacher license nor a superintendent license are needed to be a superintendent in Indiana…

So…now you can open a charter school and hire a principal with only 2 years of teaching experience…a superintendent with none…and teachers for your classrooms…all with absolutely no education training at all.

THE DIFFERENCE…

…between Indiana and Wisconsin?

In true ALEC style, Governor Walker is stealthily pushing for radical change…by putting anti-public education items in the budget bill to avoid public discussion.

In Indiana we elected legislators and a governor who didn’t even try to hide the steps they took this year to starve public schools and de-professionalize the education profession.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Bennett, SBOE, Teacher Licensing

Bennett & Co. Double Down on the Nonsense

To be a teacher in Indiana…

Last month the no-nothings on the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE) decided — in the face of substantial public objection — to allow anyone with a college degree to teach the subject of their degree area in the public schools of Indiana…no education training necessary. The idea that you have to know your subject to teach apparently trumped the idea that you have to know how to teach.

This morning I read where that’s been altered a bit. They’re going to add the “pedagogy requirement” so that, at least some training is required to keep a teaching job. At first I thought that was a good idea…until I saw the details.

Want To Teach In Indiana? Without An Ed Degree, You’ll (Still) Need Some Training

…after a last-minute addendum to a package of changes to the state’s teacher licensing rules, known as “REPA II,” non-education majors will need to receive training on teaching strategies in order to keep a teaching job…

…the final change — which board member Neil Pickett proposed just minutes before a final vote on the REPA II package — adds a requirement that teachers must complete a “pedagogy requirement” if they wish to keep their jobs.

This is, in my opinion, not as good as an education degree, but at least it’s something, right? Wrong!

According to the final language, if a permit-holder wants to renew his license in five years, he’ll need to receive training…

The Pedagogical Requirement

Five years? The rules state that if you have a college degree in a subject area you can teach for five years in Indiana without learning anything about educating children. This is a Teach for America program only without even the minimal five weeks of training which TFA offers.

About a third of beginning teachers quit before their first three years are over. Nearly half are gone within five years. The numbers are even lower for teachers in low income schools. Nearly 85% of Teach for America teachers are gone after five years.

Do the members of the SBOE have any idea what it’s like to be a teacher? A few of them — the two who voted against the REPA II rules last December — are professional educators. Many of those who spoke against the plan at the meeting in December and were ignored by 9 of the SBOE members were educators. Apparently, though, even the educators among the 9, including outgoing State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, don’t believe that teachers in Indiana schools need to be prepared to teach…they just need the right content knowledge.

What is the “pedagogical requirement”?

According to the final language, if a permit-holder wants to renew his license in five years, he’ll need to receive training in these areas:

  • “Literacy for adolescents in content areas and across the curriculum based on scientifically-based reading research”
  • “Differentiation of instruction and instructional methods, including methods for students with exceptional needs” (Differentiation is basically edu-speak for teaching a bunch of students of differing ability levels at once.)
  • “Classroom and behavioral management, including legal rights and responsibilities of teacher and student”
  • “Curriculum development, lesson planning, assessment strategies and using data to inform instruction”
  • “Psychology of child development, including the development of exceptional needs students”
  • “Competence in multicultural awareness and technology as an aid to education”

A college graduate in Math, for example, can walk into a Freshman Algebra class and not know anything about differentiated instruction.  An English or Journalism major can teach 7th grade English without any preparation, practice teaching or observation of classroom and behavioral management techniques. No lesson planning experience…no understanding of child development…no experience within classrooms…no guidance from a master teacher…nothing. The SBOE wants you to be able to teach in the public schools of Indiana with no understanding of education — other than the content — at all — for five years.

I’ll ask the questions I asked in December:

Would any of these people allow a person untrained and unqualified in their respective fields work for them? Would any of them actually allow someone who was untrained and unqualified teach their own children?

Tony Bennett was in the forefront of the movement to get rid of “bad teachers.” Collective bargaining is all but gone in Indiana. Evaluation by student test scores is all the rage and is the rule in Indiana. Do Bennett and the rest of the SBOE who voted for REPA II actually believe that lowering the standards for becoming a teacher will improve the quality of learning in Indiana schools?

Is this just ignorance or are they doing everything they can to fail the public schools in Indiana and make room for more for-profit schools to move in? Do they hate children? Do they hate professional teachers? Is Bennett still blaming ISTA for his loss and trying to get even? What are they thinking?

After Five Years

Let’s suppose that someone survives four or five years as a teacher without any preparation. Where will they be required to get their training?

Where will teachers receive this training? They could receive it in the school itself, “through school-based professional development,” through a college, or a “professional education organization.”

So…you can spend five years teaching children in our public schools before you need to learn to teach…and then you can learn to teach by going to building level inservice activities…or, you can spend the money going to an accredited education school (like you should have done in the first place), or you can get your training from some other “professional education organization” — like Pearson, perhaps? (More on Pearson HERE.)

And guess who is going to decide what qualifies as a “professional education organization?”

The SBOE now has the authority for approving teacher education programs instead of the Department of Education. They are also responsible for approving the new licensure assessments which will give the not-qualified-but-ready-to-take-the-test people their “adjunct” licenses. Looking at the rest of the list of SBOE members, I wonder why they think they’re qualified for that task.

(Read more about REPA II here and here.)

Sometimes the insanity is too much for me. I’m going to go read a book. Take a look at the following cartoon…and substitute educator for engineer (click for a larger size).

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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