Category Archives: Teachers Unions

Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

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

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

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

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

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

CONTINUING EDUCATION

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

REPA III

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

DUE PROCESS

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

FUNDING

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

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

CURRENTLY

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

School Safety

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

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

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

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

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

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

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

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

Teacher Pay

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

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

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

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

Collective Bargaining

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

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

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

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

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

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

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

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

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

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

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

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2019 Medley #6: WTF Edition

Dear Life: WTF, Shooting Teachers as PD, Children are Trying to Save the Planet, Intelligence: Not a Plus for Presidential Candidates

WTF! Some days are like that.

DEAR LIFE: WTF

A lifelong teacher

Everyone who knows me or reads this blog knows by now that our BFD of NEIFPE, Phyllis Bush, passed away last week. Last year Phyllis gave me a tee shirt that said, “DEAR LIFE: WTF.”

I agree. The children of Indiana have lost a champion in the fight to save public education.

You can read some of the many tributes to Phyllis HERE.

“Whether it is taking a kid to the zoo or to Zesto for ice cream, whether it is writing a letter to your legislators, whether it is running for office, whether it is supporting your favorite charity, DO IT! Monday morning quarterbacks are of little use to anyone. Whatever you do, live your life to the fullest. Do what matters to you.”

Godspeed, Phyllis. You were a teacher. You did what matters.

SHOOTING TEACHERS AS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: WTF

Teachers were ‘shot’ with fake bullets ‘execution style’ during active shooter training, ISTA says

There aren’t enough WTF’s for this news. The idea that teachers need to “learn” how terrifying it is to be in an active shooter situation is just WTF insane.

The problem is not that teachers (and students) don’t know how to react in an “active shooter” situation…the problem is that there are too many f#%@ing weapons in the hands of lunatics.

During active shooter training, some Indiana teachers were “shot execution style” with “projectiles” that caused welts and blood, according to the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA).

The ISTA addressed their concerns about these drills in a series of tweets on Wednesday as members of the association testified in front of the Senate Education Committee.

“The teachers were terrified but were told not to tell anyone what happened. Teachers waiting outside that heard the screaming were brought into the room four at a time, and the shooting process was repeated,” the ISTA said.

Teachers Union: No Teacher Should Be Shot at As Part of Training

This comment should not have to be said…WTF is wrong with people?

“Our view is that no teacher, no educator should be put in a small room and shot at as part of a training process for active shooter training,” said Dan Holub, executive director of the ISTA, talking to WISH-TV.

THE CURRENT WORLDWIDE EXTINCTION: WTF

Let the children strike as a lesson to all who live on this planet

Instead of ignoring nearly all the scientists in the world and continuing to do damage to the only home in the universe humans can inhabit, one would think that an entire species of intelligent beings would understand that fouling your own home is simply stupid.

The children who marched last week — all over the world — trying to get the adults in their lives to pay attention are the ones who are going to have to pay the price.

…young people enjoy similar rights and freedoms as we all do. Therefore, we should listen to children carefully when they speak to us about their lives. In fact, increased depression and anxiety that have led to dramatic erosion of children’s mental health and well-being around the world is, at least partly, due to their worries about the state of our planet. Active citizenship means having a voice about things that affect their lives.

Trump once again requests deep cuts in U.S. science spending

WTF!

At the Environmental Protection Agency, the administration is again proposing to take an ax to climate and research programs. Overall, the agency’s budget would shrink by nearly one-third, from about $8.8 billion to $6.1 billion. Its science and technology programs would be funded at about $440 million, nearly 40% below the current level of $718 million. The budget line for air and energy research, which includes climate change science, would drop by more than $60 million, from about $95 million to $32 million. Congress has repeatedly rejected such proposed cuts.

FYI

The Constitution of the United States
Article. I. Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts…

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN ACTION

Pete Buttigieg is smart, but if you like him you won’t dwell on it

Ok…so when there is someone who is intelligent we need to pretend that he’s not so smart because intelligence will lose him votes! WTF!

…I cringed a bit when I saw a tweet making the rounds talking about how he’d learned Norwegian to read more books by a Norwegian author for whom he could not find translations. I mean, that’s obviously very impressive, but talking about how smart he is doesn’t do him any political favors.

In a blog post about him I wrote about nine years ago when he was running for Treasurer, I mentioned, “we have an anti-intellectual streak a mile wide in this country where we want politicians to go with their gut and not any silly book-learnin’.”

…I suppose it’s some sort of progress that I think his educational achievements are likely to cost him more votes than the fact that he’s gay.

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Challenging the myths about teachers

It’s always dangerous to read comments on the internet. The anonymity afforded users makes it easy for them to rant, bitch, and promote myths and lies. The last week of 2018 was no different.

 

The Wall Street Journal posted the following article on Dec. 28th…

Teachers Quit Jobs at Highest Rate on Record by Michelle Hackman and Eric Morath.  (Note: This article is behind a paywall. You can read a review of the article at The Hill, Teachers in America quitting jobs at record rate)

The authors discussed the teacher shortage, last year’s state-wide teacher strikes, and the lack of support that teachers get. You can read about all that on your own…today I’m going to focus on the comments the article generated.

Now, I know that the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is very conservative so it’s not surprising that many of the people who comment are similarly inclined. For one reason or another, some of those conservatives, seem to hate public education, public school teachers, and public sector unions (surprise, surprise!). Many left angry and ignorant comments about teachers and public schools (comments on The Hill report are similar). Not all, of course. There were people who were defending public schools, teachers, and unions, but they were in the minority and fought a losing battle against ignorance and envy.

The anti-public education comments fell into three general categories focusing on teachers, teachers unions, and failing schools.

  • Teachers are the cause of school failure: Teachers aren’t very smart, make a lot of money, only work part-time, and get plenty of benefits.
  • Unions are the cause of school failure: Unions have destroyed the teaching profession, the union bosses make huge salaries, and unions protect bad teachers.
  • Other causes of school failure: Parents, students, administrators.

Most of the comments were based on myths and popular media images of public schools and teachers. Every public school teacher/parent should be ready to challenge those myths.

MYTH: AMERICA’S FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The basic assumption for nearly every anti-teacher/public education comment is that America’s public schools are failing.

Wrong.

They’re not.

Over the last couple of years, I have written, read, and reported on posts that explained that America’s public schools are generally successful. Please read one or more of those before proceeding. I’ll wait…

Now that we understand that America’s public schools are among the best in the world and that poverty along with the neglect, ignorance, or avoidance of the effects of poverty are the cause of low student achievement, let’s address the first set of comments, those about teachers.

 

MYTH: TEACHERS’ SALARIES AND BENEFITS MEAN HIGHER TOTAL COMPENSATION

Teachers are not paid too much compared to other college graduates when you factor in their benefits. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The teacher pay penalty has hit a new high

The teacher pay gap is growing. From 1996 to 2017 weekly wages for teachers dropped by $27. For other workers, weekly wages grew more than $130. The weekly wage penalty (not including benefits) for teachers reached more than 18% in 2017. The weekly wage gap varies by state, but in no state does the teachers’ weekly wage equal other college graduates. In Indiana, the difference in 2017, was -21%!

Benefits do not make up the difference, either. The total compensation penalty for teachers reached 11% by 2017. In other words, teachers, on average, make 11% less than other equally-educated workers even when you include benefits.

What about pensions? Don’t teachers get fabulous pensions which suck taxpayers dry?

Different states have different rules regarding teacher pensions, and those rules change frequently. Some states, like Illinois, have been fighting over teacher pensions for years. Other states have good pension plans…some have terrible plans. You can check out this article for an overview. If you’d like to see what the average monthly pension is for teachers in your state, read What Is the Average Teacher Pension in My State?

 

MYTH: TEACHING IS JUST PART-TIME WORK

How about the teaching year…do teachers work only 6 hours a day, for only 8 or 9 months? Do “summers off” and vacation days mean that teachers work only a fraction of what the average American worker does?

In Indiana, teachers teach at least 180 days a year. In most school systems teachers are required to be in school between seven and eight hours each of those days. Before I retired, my school system’s contract required that we work 7 3/4 hours a day. We also had an additional 5 days each year that we had to work…classroom preparation, in-service days, etc. Our contracted days and hours each year were 185 days at 7 3/4 hours a day which (when divided over the entire year) comes to about 27.6 hours a week ((185 x 7.75)/52=27.572).

The average American, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (July 2018), works 34.5 hours a week. So, is it true that teachers work an average of seven hours a week less than the average American worker?

Actually, no.

Most teachers work more than the required daily hours. Some come in early to prepare for the day’s lessons or tutor students, some stay late grading or, again, tutoring. Some do both. The actual number of hours the average teacher spends working each day varies, but it’s almost always more what’s written in the contract. When I was a classroom teacher, I averaged about nine hours a day, plus another hour or two at home grading and planning…and sometimes on weekends…

Furthermore, many of the “vacation days” during spring break, summers, winter break, etc., are work days for teachers, who spend several weeks each year in continuing education (required in Indiana), curriculum planning, and classroom preparation.

So, do teachers work fewer hours than other college graduates? No. If you want more information on this topic, read this…

Teachers work more overtime than any other professionals, analysis shows

 

MYTH: THOSE WHO CAN, DO. THOSE WHO CAN’T, TEACH

It’s true that in past years the average SAT/ACT test scores for teachers has been higher. There was once a time where teaching was one of the only careers open to bright, young women. Now that other occupations are open to those women who achieve higher test scores, the average test score of teachers in the U.S. is…well…average, at about the 48th percentile. Teachers are not the top test takers in the nation, but they well within the average range. The old canard about teachers coming from the bottom third of their graduating classes is not true. Some do, of course, but that’s true in every profession. Did you ever stop to think that your family physician might have finished in the bottom third of her graduating class? What if the pharmacist who fills your prescription scored the minimum on his licensing test?

What about the course of study for teachers? Is the teacher preparation program at state and local universities easier than other courses of study?

Peter Greene, who blogs at Curmudgucation, wrote that asking whether the classes are hard or easy is the wrong question (emphasis added).

I agree that college teacher training programs are, at best, a mixed bag, and at the bottom of that bag are some truly useless programs. Talking about “hard” or “easy” is really beside the point; we’d be better off talking about useful or useless, and some teacher prep programs really are useless. Some programs involved a lot of hoop jumping and elaborate lesson planning techniques that will never, ever be used in the field; this kind of thing is arguably rigorous and challenging, but it’s of no earthly use to actual teachers.

Some classes are very difficult but useless. Other classes may seem easy, but have a lot of practical use for pre-service teachers.

When I look back at what was useful in my own preparation I can acknowledge that The History of Education wasn’t that difficult. Neither were some of the other courses I took like Math for Elementary Teachers or Children’s Literature. On the other hand, when I was a student I learned something that served me well as a pre-service teacher.

I got out of my courses what I put into them.

So, while The History of Education wasn’t all that useful when I started teaching, Educational Psychology and Child Development were…Math for Elementary Teachers was…Curriculum Development was (at least it was back in the day, when teachers actually had an impact on curriculum)…as were my “methods classes” and many of the other courses I took.

The most useful courses, however, were the ones in which I spent time with children, learning to relate to them and learning how to explain things to them. And, like most teachers, once I started teaching, I understood that being an educator is not easy.

Since I put some work into my courses, my college teaching preparation was useful even if some of the classes weren’t very difficult. Other teachers often talk about what a waste of time some of the classes were. Perhaps for them, they were. Maybe I was just lucky.

Those young people who go into education because the preparation is easy, or go into education after they graduate in order to pad their resume, find out quickly that teaching is not as simple as your third-grade teacher, your middle school math teacher, or your high school English teacher made it look. That’s why so many beginning teachers leave the field within their first five years. That’s why the ones who make a career in education are the ones who are willing to work…the ones who love what they do enough to invest their time, energy, and passion.

So, do people become teachers because it’s an easy course of study? Possibly. But those who do, usually don’t last in the field of education. Perhaps some of them even become state legislators

 

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2018 Medley #17

Flint Fights Lead,
Hope for Lead-poisoned Children,
Out of School Factors,
Preschool Teachers, Teachers Unions,
“Give me your tired, your poor…”

WHY ISN’T PREVENTING LEAD POISONING A NATIONAL GOAL?

Is Flint Michigan’s Water Quality Really Restored?

It’s hard to stay focused on education topics when the country is under the stress it now finds itself. When August and September roll around, however, no matter what’s happening with the nation’s immigration crisis, with the Supreme Court, or with the investigation into possible treasonous activity on the part of the President’s political campaign, the nation’s schools will fill once again and teachers will try to ease the stress on their students with the healing power of routine, curiosity, and study.

Yet some children, including those from Flint, Michigan, will go back to school with their blood contaminated by lead. Despite the claims of the politicians, lead is still an issue in Flint (and elsewhere). The repair of the water lines responsible for contaminating the bodies of school children is actually causing the condition to worsen.

In addition, the State of Michigan is allowing Nestlé to pump millions of gallons of water from the Great Lakes in order to bottle and sell it. Nestlé is “giving” a few thousand gallons back to the people of Flint. According to the interview below, Nestlé is donating less water than they drain from the lakes in an hour per week back to the people of Flint – the same lakes which should be providing the clean water to the city’s residents. Most residents are having to buy water and pay their water bills. The “donation” from Nestlé is barely a supplement.

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Well, the water is not safe to drink. And while they are replacing the lead service lines, because of just the, the vibrations from that, it’s reintroducing lead particles into the system. So the water will not be safe to drink until after the lead service lines are replaced. But I will say a larger picture is there are a lot of things like lead that’s in our water that the state is refusing to act on.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. So since they stopped distributing the water bottles, what are the citizens doing there for safe water?

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Well, people are going back and buying water. There are still some small donations from people. And I would say one of the, one of the more unfortunate consequences from this is it’s given a chance for Nestlé, who’s paying, like, $200 a year to pump 500 gallons a minute from our Great Lakes, they’re donating 100000 bottles of water a week to Flint. So that’s like one bottle per person.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. So you’re saying it’s a PR boon for Nestlé, who’s stealing a large amount of water out of the lake, and giving you all a bottle apiece a day? Is that what you’re saying?

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Yes. Nestlé is donating 100000 bottles of water a week to Flint residents. And while people are desperate and they’re using that water, this is just a PR move for Nestlé.

 

HOPE

Lead hurts kids, including their ability to learn. But new research shows cities can help.

A new study shows that the effects of lead poisoning in children can be ameliorated somewhat, but it will cost money.

Now, a new study says there’s a lot that can be done about it — even for kids who have already been exposed to the chemical, which was common in paint until the late 1970s. Straightforward efforts, like making sure kids get nutritional help and aren’t exposed to any more lead, can boost student learning and cause substantial decreases in suspensions, absences, and crime rates.

Politicians and pundits should take note. Environmental toxins such as lead are just one of the factors outside of school which contribute to low achievement.

The research underscores how factors outside schools’ control can profoundly influence academic outcomes.

 

From Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers
Based on Student Test Scores
by Edward Haertel

ON BEING SELFISH AND CHEAP

When preschool teachers can’t afford care for their own children

You might have heard politicians go on and on about how they agree that early childhood education is important, yet when it comes to paying for it they’re more interested in making sure that taxes are insufficient due to tax breaks for their donors. Meanwhile, the tax burden of Americans is one of the lowest in the developed world…

You get what you pay for.

Low wages and poor working conditions undermine the quality of early education experiences, which hinge on positive adult-child interactions. When teachers are worried about their ability to put food on the table, pay their bills or take care of a sick child, they are understandably less able to focus on the needs of the children in their care and to provide the intentional interactions so critical to child development.

The result is high turnover rates and difficulty retaining the most qualified educators. In turn, this creates instability for young children, who crave routine, and decreases the likelihood that children will reap the long-term benefits that come from attendance at a high-quality preschool staffed by experienced, highly skilled educators.

 

CORPORATE REFORM SCORES A WIN OVER UNIONS

Michigan-based Mackinac Center’s Campaign to Kill Unions in Other States

Corporate America received a win last week when the US Supreme Court overruled the case for unions collecting fees for services they are required by law to provide all employees in their bargaining unit. The ruling has two serious results. First, it has legitimized freeloaders who pay nothing to support those who work to improve their working conditions, and second, it has energized anti-union forces around the nation.

On June 27, 2018, in Janus V. AFSCME, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 – 4 that nonunion workers cannot be forced to pay “fair share” fees when union advocacy results in a benefit to nonunion members.

The extreme-right-wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy is using the Janus decision to actively campaign for the fiscal crippling of unions by targeting emails to organizations such as school districts in order to try to get union members to “opt out” of union membership.

 

Betsy DeVos Conquers the World: The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM)

Here’s a companion piece to the story above about union busting by the US Supreme Court. Busting unions is just one part of the Global Education Reform Movement, or GERM, and it’s an international affliction.

The National Education Union in the UK sums it up well. Here is what GERM does to schools in countries around the world:

  • Threatens the teaching profession by prioritizing and imposing a business model on education.
  • Emphasizes competition between schools and teachers, using high-stakes testing.
  • Gives performance rewards.
  • Aims to produce a narrowly educated workforce, which can read instructions and advertisements but is discouraged from thinking critically about the world.
  • Attacks teachers’ unions.
  • Views education as an opportunity to maximise human capital.
  • Abandons education’s role to create cultural good and social cohesion.
  • Takes education out of the hands of those who own it, teachers, students, parents, and the public, to develop a commodity which can be traded globally.
  • Creates a service sector which is open to trade and investors.
  • Education becomes about profit not people.
  • There’s an emphasis on education technology for capital.
  • Breaks good school systems into academies, free schools, or in America, charter and voucher schools.
  • Creates a national pay framework.
  • Relies on performance related pay—think social impact bonds.
  • Privatizes educational services.

GERM affects all schools—everywhere.

 

IMMIGRATION LAW HISTORY

A Brief History of U.S. Immigration Law

We all owe it to ourselves to understand where the United States has been with our immigration laws in order to understand where we are now.

…our immigration laws have increasingly become more strict, with a growing focus on controlling undocumented immigration. How these laws are interpreted and implemented is determined for the most part by court rulings when the government and its agencies are sued on behalf of immigrants (class action suits). When a ruling is made on a class action case, that ruling then becomes national policy.

 

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2017 Medley #31

Teachers Unions, U.S. ED,
Poisoning Our Children, Teacher Shortage, Early Childhood Education, Hate in America, Creeps

Sometimes there’s just too much going on in the U.S. to even try to keep up with everything. The constant Trumpian attack on things like schools and health care…the blatant attempts at diverting more money from the lower and middle classes to the wealthy and oligarchy…the depth of sexual sickness on our entertainment and politics…the nationalism (not patriotism) that has emerged as a force for evil and hatred…

I could have included another dozen articles in this medley…

GUILTY OF POISONING OUR CHILDREN

New testimony alleges Gov. Snyder lied under oath about lead in Flint water

Why are the politicians who poisoned the children (and families) of Flint, Michigan (and elsewhere) still in office and still getting paid? Why haven’t they been fired and prosecuted? Shouldn’t they at least be on House Arrest like Paul Manafort? Shouldn’t they lose all their power like Harvey Weinstein? Shouldn’t they be publicly humiliated like Roy Moore?

Harvey Hollins, the man Gov. Snyder appointed to handle the Flint Water Crisis, testified Wednesday that he told the governor about increasing lead in Flint water months before Snyder told Congress he learned about it.

TEACHERS UNIONS

Union talk. Protecting and defending the good teachers.

How about if we blame teachers and their unions for low student achievement due to the highest rate of childhood poverty in the advanced industrialized world?

(I’m going to have to stop including the U.S. when I talk about “advanced” nations.)

Over the course of my career teachers have been turned into scapegoats by political opportunists of all stripes and by both political parties. Urban schools in particular were declared failing and the teachers were the reason. Teaching was among the few careers open to professionals of color and women, easy targets for racism and gender bias. And teaching became viewed as a technocratic exercise. No longer was it understood as a complex combination of science, artistry, subject matter knowledge along with a concern for the well-being of children.

As private sector unions represented a smaller and smaller percentage of the population, public sector unions – like teacher unions – became the last ones standing.

TEACHERS UNIONS: WISCONSIN

Gutting Wisconsin teachers unions hurt students, study finds

Governor Walker, how is your anti-union plan working out…kids doing better?

The law led to big cuts in teacher compensation, particularly for veteran teachers and especially in health insurance and retirement benefits, according to one paper. There was also a spike in teacher retirement immediately following the law’s passage.

As compensation drops, it may become harder for district and teachers to recruit and keep teachers. An increase in retirement also reduces teacher experience, which has been linked to effectiveness.

PRIVATIZATION: U.S. ED

Trump’s Latest Department Of Education Nominees Are School Voucher Advocates

The amazing thing is that they don’t even try to hide it any more. George W’s first Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, touted his Houston Miracle (that turned out to be a hoax). Margaret Spellings tried, weakly, to claim competence because she was a mom. Arne Duncan learned everything he knew about public education from watching his mother teach.

But Betsy DeVos doesn’t even pretend to care about public schools…she doesn’t even pretend to know anything about public schools, and neither do new appointments to high ranking positions in the U.S. Education Department. They don’t know anything about education, yet they want to control the education of our children.

They don’t know anything about education, yet they want to control the education of our children.

Zais was questioned about whether he was familiar with recent research into the impact of vouchers on student achievement. He responded: “To the best of my knowledge, whenever we give parents an opportunity to choose a school that’s a good fit for their child, the result is improved outcomes.”

This answer is surprising considering that voucher programs show the exact opposite. When faced with the truth – that recent studies in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and Washington, D.C., found not only do vouchers not improve student achievement, but in many cases they harm it – he admitted he was unaware of these studies and that he had based his answer on anecdotes, not on facts.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

FL: What?! A teacher shortage??!!

Please go to the link above and read this article by Peter Greene. I included all the links to every single bullet point below…follow them.

He lists 16 items for Florida. How many of these are happening in your state? I count at least 10 for Indiana.

Okay, not shocking. Utterly predictable, given Florida’s unending efforts to create the worst atmosphere for public education in the country. Here are some of the things they’ve done, in no particular order:

* They have tried to make it possible for parents to stamp out the teaching of science.
* They have given charters the unchecked ability to steal local tax dollars.
* They have made an absolute disastrous amateur-hour hash out of their Big Standardized Test.
* They have made successful students repeat third grade for failing to love the BST
* They have declared– in court– that teacher-prepared report cards are meaningless
* They have demonstrated how badly teacher merit pay can fail
* They made a dying child take the Big Standardized Test 
* They turned recess into a political football.
* They based a strategic plan based on bad retail management.
* They abolished tenure, and fired teachers for advocating for students.
* They’ve allowed racist underfunding of schools to flourish.
* They have provided ample proof that an A-F school rating system doesn’t work.
* They host experiments in computerized avatar classrooms.
* They have charter legislation hustled through the capital by lawmakers who profit from it.
* They allow more charter misbehavior than you can shake a stick at.
* They have created a charter money grab law so onerous and obnoxious they have actually moved public schools to sue the state government.

All of this over and above the continued drip, drip, drip of starving public schools of resources and finding new ways to treat public school teachers with disrespect. And the pay stinks.

WHAT OUR CHILDREN NEED INSTEAD OF TEST AND PUNISH

A 19-Year Study Reveals Kindergarten Students With These 2 Skills Are Twice as Likely to Obtain a College Degree (And They Have Nothing to Do With Reading)

Indiana and other states are currently increasing early childhood education opportunities (for some). What kind of preschools and kindergartens are we going to have, though? Will they be developmentally appropriate, or are we just going to push test and punish down to younger and younger children?

Here’s an idea…

For every one-point increase in children’s social competency scores in kindergarten, they were twice as likely to obtain college degrees. They were also more likely to have full-time jobs by age 25.

But the kids who had trouble cooperating, listening, and resolving conflict were less likely to finish high school–let alone college. They were more likely to have legal problems and substance abuse issues.

For every one-point decrease in social competency at age 5, a child had a 67 percent higher chance of being arrested in early adulthood. A one-point decrease also meant a child had a 52 percent higher rate of binge drinking and an 82 percent higher chance of living in public housing (or at least being on the waitlist).

HATE IN AMERICA

Communities hit by rising hate crimes say Trump’s rhetoric is having a devastating impact

The hatred of “the other” has been a part of America since its founding. It started in Europe and came here under the guise of “bringing Christ to the natives.” Instead, the Christians who came here from Europe used their power to steal the treasures of the Central and South American natives, overrun the land of the North American natives, set up theocracies in New England, and import slaves from Africa as chattel labor.

That is the basis of the European Culture that the nationalists, nazis, and white supremacists claim to be protecting from black and brown people who live here or have come here from other lands. Has Euro-America ever done anything good? Of course. We’ve been an innovative and (mostly) welcome place for the world’s refuse. Underneath the innovation and open arms, however, has lurked hatred for anyone different…and the election of Donald Trump has empowered that hatred to ooze out from under its rock and pronounce itself ready to do battle against “the other.”

It doesn’t matter that nearly every white nationalist, nazi, and racist lives here with an immigrant past.

Other nations will now have to take over the mantle of moral leadership. We have lost it.

“We think that there is a clear connection between the rise in visible [anti-Semitism], virulent Islamophobia and xenophobia, and racism and the policies and rhetoric of the political right,” wrote Leo Ferguson, who works with the organization Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, in an email to ThinkProgress. “State violence against Black people, Muslims, undocumented people and others sets the stage and gives permission for hate crimes, hate speech and discrimination.”

Advocates emphasized that the violence facing minority communities is nothing new. As rising hate crimes indicate, however, it is becoming more prevalent — something many say is clearly linked to the president.

CREEPS COMING OUT

The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part VI

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station gives us some instruction in morality.

Sexual assault isn’t relative.

Franken’s shitty behavior isn’t made less by Donald Trump’s shitty behavior.

There may be degrees of heinousness, but sexual assault isn’t a game of comparison.

But that is exactly what happens when politics are involved.

It’s human nature. We all have a tendency to diminish the failings of our own by pointing out the egregious actions of those we don’t like. It’s not a liberal or conservative thing.

…Democrats should be held to high standards.

In fact, they should be held to higher standards than they are right now.

AND. SO. SHOULD. REPUBLICANS.

So should the president. So should the Judges. So should every Congressman and Senator. So should every office holder. So should every cop and Priest and dog catcher.

So should we all.

You want a better nation? A better world? Then you have to be better citizens.

It starts right here.

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2017 Medley #23

De-Professionalizing Teachers,
Anti-Intellectualism, Vouchers,
The Destruction of Public Education in Indianapolis

DE-PROFESSIONALIZING TEACHERS

The Many Ways We Are De-Professionalizing Teaching

De-professionalizing teaching is just one front of the war on public education. Nancy Flanagan addresses the confusion of privatizers claiming that becoming a teacher is too easy through the traditional routes…colleges and university schools of education. She talks about the difficulty of the new Florida test that teachers must pass in order to become a licensed teacher…and then goes on to remind us that the same privatizers want to allow anyone to teach in private and charter schools…easier paths to teaching.

Here in Indiana, for example, the EdTPA which pre-service teachers must complete, requires intense attention to, and hours of investment in, teaching and planning lessons…and at the same time, REPA III allows anyone with a content area degree to start teaching in a high school with no experience in actual teaching.

The point? De-professionalize teaching. End the existence of the career teacher who has the best interest of the students at heart. Instead, fill classrooms with idealistic young college graduates on their way up the corporate ladder, who don’t really know anything about teaching and will accept minimal pay for parroting direct teaching scripts…and who will leave after two years, thereby making room for other minimal pay teachers.

Drive out the career oriented teachers by making the requirements for teaching onerous and expensive. Bring in the unqualified and inexperienced who won’t ask for benefits or pensions.

The policy goal here is de-professionalizing teaching, establishing it once and for all as a short-term, entry-level technical job designed to attract a revolving door of “community-minded” candidates, who will work diligently for cheap, then get out because they can’t support a family or buy a home on a teacher’s salary.

Emphasis on the word cheap. This is about profit and control, not improving education.

In addition to shutting out promising candidates by stringent testing or changing policy to allow virtually anyone with a college degree in the classroom, policymakers, spurred by ALEC and a host of education nonprofits, are also de-professionalizing by:

  • Messing with pension, retirement and insurance packages to encourage young teachers to move in and quickly out of a job that has no financial future.
  • Bringing community-based artists, musicians, sports trainers and library aides into classrooms that used to be staffed by certified teachers.
  • Confiscating teachers’ professional work–instruction, curriculum, assessment, collegial mentoring, etc. Decisions that were once a teacher’s prerogative are now outsourced to canned curricula designed to raise test scores, or standardized assessments that don’t take knowledge of students and their context into consideration. Who should determine the curricular frameworks, design lessons and set goals for students? Teachers and school leaders who know the students and community where they work? Or a Gates-funded, agenda-driven organization?
  • Defunding the schools where the vast majority of professionally prepared teachers are working.
  • Borrowing from the success universities have had, by designing “part-time” jobs (think: K-12 “adjuncts”) with pro-rated benefit packages, a lure to get good teaching for even less money than base pay.

Do You Think Every Child Deserves a Qualified Teacher?

New York is considering allowing anyone to teach…because, after all, it really doesn’t require any special skill set to stand up in front of a class of 30 kids and drill them on test prep materials.

The charter school committee of the State University of New York will soon decide whether charter schools will be allowed to hire uncertified teachers.

Forbes Says 18 Dumb Things

The Forbes article, Teacher Certification Makes Public School Education Worse, Not Better, by University of Chicago Law Professor, Omri Ben Shahar, announces that certified teachers are actually a detriment to our education system.

Peter Greene takes him to task on 18 of his statements which make no sense…to someone with any K-12 teaching experience, that is. Before you read Greene’s breakdown of Bar Shahar’s ignorant pontificating on a subject he knows nothing about, consider this…

Ben Shahar has three law degrees and two economics degrees. He’s spent his more than 20 year professional career working in higher education as a professor of law and economics. One look at his CV gives one a picture of a man who has spent decades perfecting his understanding of economics and law.

But nowhere in his experience has he spent time living and working with K-12 students and teachers. His claim that teacher certification makes public school education worse, is based on standardized test scores. One wonders if he would allow himself to be judged by the bar exam success rate of his students. He wrote…

…America has excellent higher education. Yet primary and secondary school students have long performed poorly on tests compared with students from many industrialized countries.

His understanding of what goes on in a traditional public school is based on what? His own experience? His children’s experience? What he reads in the media? It seems obvious that he based his entire argument on the fact that “many industrialized countries” have higher test scores than we do. The very fact that he uses test scores as the measure of K-12 public education success or failure underscores his ignorance. There are several reasons why the average test scores of American students are below those of some other OECD nations…and none of them have to do with teacher certification.

For example…

In other words, if you want to compare the achievement of America’s public school students to students in other countries, standardized test scores are probably the worst way to do it.

When Bar Shahar can match my 40 plus years of experience as a paraprofessional, teacher, and volunteer in K-12 schools, then I’ll listen to his reasons why teacher certification doesn’t work…

This is the final line of the article, and nothing in it has been proven in any of the lines that came before. Great teachers are somehow born and not made, and they alone can fix everything, and they are apparently distributed randomly throughout the population. Somehow by lowering standards, lowering pay, destabilizing pay, and removing job security, we will attract more of them and flush them out.

That’s 18 dumb things in one short article. I suppose Forbes could get better articles if they paid less and let anybody write for them.

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN AMERICA

Elevating Ignorance

It seems to be a source pride among some Americans, to be ignorant.

It’s irrational.

What is worth thinking about, however, is what has been termed “America’s Cult of Ignorance.” An article addressing that issue began with my favorite Isaac Asimov quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

VOUCHERS DON’T WORK, BUT THAT DOESN’T MATTER

Indiana Legislators Don’t Care About Negative Results of Vouchers

Here are some reasons that Indiana’s legislators don’t care about the negative results of vouchers.

Legislators don’t care. They want to send more money away from public schools. The results don’t matter. They have stopped claiming that vouchers will “save” poor kids from failing schools. No one was saved.

They don’t care. They want to do harm to the schools that enroll the vast majority of students.

Why? I don’t know. What do you think can explain their determination to throw more money into vouchers now that they know they are ineffective?

Betsy DeVos Is Not My Secretary of Education

There’s no academic reason for vouchers. Politicians and policy makers ought to quit pretending that they’re pushing the privatization of public education “for children.”

Then there is DeVos’s promotion of tax cuts for the wealthy under the guise of vouchers. Vouchers are another avenue for school choice. Students take the money allotted to educate them in a public school and move it to a private school in the form of a scholarship. Yet even voucher supporters must reckon with research showing vouchers don’t work. If the most recent studies show that vouchers don’t work, how does that create equity for our students? If equity isn’t the goal, then why the need to pretend we need vouchers for our most marginalized families?

INDIANAPOLIS: THE “DESTROY PUBLIC EDUCATION” (DPE) MOVEMENT

A MUST READ! Think National, Fight Local: The Story of Indianapolis and the DPE (Destroy Public Education) Movement

This excellent post by Diane Ravitch explains how the Indianapolis public schools are being destroyed and privatized. The quote below is from a commenter…

Comment from “Retiredteacher

Privatization is like a creeping virus that slowing erodes the immune system and the ability to fight the infection. We have seen similar patterns at work in numerous cities. Privatization is the result of collusion between the local government and a variety of foundations backed by dark money, and it is supported by members of both major political parties. Supporters of public education must organize to fight back in the media, the courts and the voting booths. We should remind people that no system of privatization has ever solved society’s problems. The big byproducts of privatization are destruction of public education, increased misuse of local tax dollars, loss of democratic power, and increased segregation. Privatization is a massive shift of wealth from the working class to the wealthy.

Recognized charter school shuts down two Indianapolis locations

The last sentence below clearly states the bottom-line for charter schools…

According to charter school admission documents, the Shadeland Carpe Diem’s funding was composed of the following:

$245,000 Philanthropic Donation
$90,000 Federal Start-up funds (1st year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
The charter also gets $500/student from the Charter School Grant Fund. (This is a property tax replacement fund. Charter schools do not get property tax dollars.)

Like Indiana public schools, the Charter also received funds from the Common School Loan Program.

“In retrospect, it was really too fast, too soon,” said Carpe Diem Board President Jason Bearce. “We just weren’t able to get the enrollment to make the budget balance.”

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Listen to This #9

THE BEST IN THE WORLD

Sometimes They’re Right

America’s public schools are not “failing.” However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t improve. After reminding us how the nation’s public schools are the best in the world, Rob Miller goes on to remind us that many criticisms of public education are true. It’s up to us to make public education the “unequivocal BEST choice for America’s children.

From Rob Miller

…public education is an absolute right for every child in America, not just the privileged. No other school system anywhere in the world exceeds the United States in providing free access to education for everyone. And that, alone, makes us exceptional.

CHOICE

I got to choose private schools, but will vouchers really help other kids make it?

Indiana’s voucher program began as a way to “save poor children from ‘failing’ schools.” It was restricted by income, and parents had to try the public schools before they could get a voucher to send their child to a private school. It didn’t matter that it was the state, not the schools that was “failing” the students. All that mattered was that privatizers rationalize a way to give tax money to private schools and churches.

Once it was clear that private and parochial education didn’t provide better services for poor children, the argument changed.

The voucher program has been expanded to include middle class students, and students who have never set foot in public schools. Public dollars are being used to pay for religious instruction.

The call is now for “choice.” There’s no attempt to claim that private and parochial schools are better. The entire reason for the voucher program is now “choice.”

From Emmanuel Felton in The Hechinger Report

School choice by its very nature uproots its customers from their communities, increasing the proportion of Americans without any stake in what’s going on in public schools, the schools that will always serve the children most in need of attention.

GRADING SCHOOLS IN INDIANA

Board members favor counting test scores more than growth

From Christopher Tienken quoted by Steve Hinnefeld

Whether you’re trying to measure proficiency or growth, standardized tests are not the answer…

ESSA INDIANA

Diploma rule a setback for Indiana schools, students

Federal law requires that students with special needs have an IEP, an Individual Education Plan. It’s required that the IEP describe a modified program appropriate to the student. Yet, now we find that the same Federal laws which require those accommodations for special needs students, requires that they, along with their teachers and schools, be punished for those accommodations.

Since charter schools and schools accepting vouchers enroll fewer special needs students than public schools, it is the “grade” of the public schools which will suffer because of this loathsome and abusive practice. It is the students who were told what they needed to do, and who did it, who will be told, “your diploma doesn’t really count.”

From Steve Hinnefeld

…students who struggle to earn the general diploma and likely wouldn’t complete a more rigorous course of study, the change seems to send a message that their efforts aren’t good enough. About 30 percent of students who earn a general diploma are special-needs students.

TRUMP-DEVOS

After Six Months, What Has Trump-DeVos Department of Education Accomplished?

The sooner this administration is history, the better.

From Jan Resseger

To summarize—Betsy DeVos has said she intends to “neutralize” the Office of Civil Rights, which can only be interpreted as weakening its role. DeVos is delaying rules to protect borrowers who have been defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit colleges. While DeVos promotes school accountability through parental school choice, her staff are busy demanding continued test-and-punish accountability from the states. And finally, the D.C. voucher program remains the only federally funded tuition voucher program, despite that DeVos has declared the expansion of several kinds of school vouchers to be her priority.

DEVOS ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

The deep irony in Betsy DeVos’s first speech on special education

From Valerie Strauss, in the Answer Sheet

We should celebrate the fact that unlike some countries in the world, the United States makes promises that we will never send any student away from our schools. Our commitment is to educate every student. Period. It’s but one of America’s many compelling attributes.

The irony in this statement is that it is the traditional public education system in the United States that promises a free and appropriate education for all students. There is no question that many traditional public schools don’t meet this promise, but the goal is aspirational and seen as a public good. And it is the traditional U.S. public education system that DeVos has labeled a “dead end” and a “monopoly,” while the alternatives to these traditional public school districts that she promotes don’t make the same promise.

PUNISHING THIRD GRADERS

FL: Third Grade Readers Lose

The attack on public education, and on eight year old children in particular, continues. Florida uses a “third grade reading test” that students must pass, else they face retention in grade. Just like Indiana…
Just like Ohio…
Just like Mississippi…
and Oklahoma…
and Arizona…
and Connecticut…
California…
Michigan…

Another abusive “learn or be punished” policy.

From Peter Greene in Curmudgucation

What sucks more is that the final outcome maintains Florida’s power to flunk any third grader who refuses to take the test, regardless of any other academic indicators. In fact, the whole mess of a ruling would seem to suggest that Florida intends to ignore the part of ESSA that explicitly recognizes parental rights to opt out.

…the state had to explicitly declare that it doesn’t believe in the grades on report cards and that it values test-taking compliance above all else AND that it fully intends to ignore the opt-out portion of ESSA. So the face of education policy continues to be ugly, but at least they were required to show it without any mask or make-up.

TEACHER SHORTAGE: PAY

Teacher Pay Penalty Driving Educators Away From Profession

8 steps to destroy public education…

  1. Schools are labeled “failing.”
  2. Teachers are demonized for not raising test scores.
  3. Tax money is diverted to private and charter schools creating a public school funding crisis.
  4. Funding crises yields a drop in teacher salaries.
  5. Fewer young people choose a career in education creating a teacher shortage.
  6. Fewer teachers means larger class sizes.
  7. Larger class sizes means lowered achievement, especially for poor students.
  8. Lowered achievement means more schools will be labeled “failing.”

This quote deals with step 5 in the process.

From Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute.

“We are moving into a world where fewer people are trying to enter teaching, in part because the profession has been degraded by misguided accountability measures and also because of the erosion of pay,” says Mishel.

TEACHERS UNION

Blaming Unions for Bad Schools

From Walt Gardner

It’s so easy to scapegoat teachers’ unions for all the ills afflicting public schools (“State of the Teachers Union,” The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 6). The charge is that they are more interested in protecting teachers than in teaching students (“This is what teachers unions really protect,” New York Post, Jul. 6). Critics point to the success of charter schools, which are overwhelmingly non-union, as evidence.

But what these critics don’t admit is that states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, which have strong teachers unions, also post high test scores. Is that merely a coincidence or is it evidence that the critics are wrong? (Correlation is not causation.) Moreover, not all charter schools post positive results by any means.

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Filed under A-F Grading, Choice, DeVos, ESSA, Public Ed, Quotes, retention, special education, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage