Posted in Curmudgucation, Internet, Pensions, Public Ed, Teachers Unions, Teaching Career

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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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, GERM, Immigrants, Lead, Preschool, Taxes, Teachers Unions

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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Posted in Article Medleys, Early Childhood, Lead, Racism, SexualHarrassment, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage, US DOE

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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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, Article Medleys, Charters, DeVos, Privatization, Teachers Unions, Teaching Career, vouchers

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

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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Posted in Article Medleys, Public Ed, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2016 Medley #18: On Teachers and Teaching

On Teachers and Teaching

NOTHING TO IT

Anyone can teach, right? We all went to school, after all, and watched it being done. There’s nothing to it.

Years ago I had a first grade student whose father epitomized this attitude in two separate instances.

First, I was told by this man that if his child didn’t understand something I should just tell her what I wanted her to know. Just tell her and then she’ll know it.

Second, I was explaining why his daughter, as a first grader, was not expected to spell every word she wrote correctly. I talked about “invented spelling” and explained why it was an important step in the development of reading and spelling. This was unacceptable. His child was going to spell correctly from day one. Apparently all my years of experienve in the classroom, a Masters degree in elementary education, and a specialization in Reading didn’t really mean I knew what I was talking about.

Why is it that the profession of “teacher” is something people assume is easy? Most people don’t assume they know how to build a building just because they might live or work in one. Police officers don’t assume that they can build bridges. Attorneys don’t assume they know how to do surgery. Doctors don’t practice law. Electricians don’t design skyscrapers.

Yet, politicians, TFA recruiters, other “reformers,” and many general citizens assume that they know all about teaching just because. Gordon Hendry, a member of the Indiana State Board of Education, once…

compared the process a new teacher would follow under the career specialist license to the work of young law students, who often deal with clients and complete legal work before passing the state bar exam under supervision from experienced lawyers.

Hendry wanted to allow anyone with content knowledge into Indiana’s classrooms. His comparison of teaching to law showed his ignorance about teaching internships and student teaching.

Now, in Indiana, REPA III allows anyone with a college degree to teach high school in their major area with certain restrictions such as grade point average and years of experience in their field. They need no pedagogical training to walk into a classroom on the first day of a school year and start teaching. Just as our obsession with testing assumes that knowing facts is everything, in teaching all that matters to these folks is the content.

That’s wrong and it shows the ignorance and inexperience of those who are making education policy for our public schools.

The Dangers of Eliminating Teacher Preparation

Nancy Bailey provides a “reality check” for those who are interested in education. Don’t just assume that, because you spent your childhood and youth in a classroom that you know how to teach. You don’t learn a skill just by watching – real teachers understand that. That’s why good teacher preparation programs insist that their students spend hours and hours with real children in real classroom settings.

In the excerpt below, Bailey explains a little about child development. That’s just one area where teachers know more than “reformers.”

Child Development

Unless teachers understand appropriate milestones, or steps for each age and developmental level including middle and high school, children will become frustrated. We already see problems with school reform that places an unreasonable burden on children in the early years.

Increasingly, despite pleas for restraint by child specialists, very young children are being pushed to learn more before they are developmentally ready.

Good teacher education includes serious study about timing for appropriate instruction according to where the child is developmentally.

UNIONS AND “BAD” TEACHERS

“Reformers” might claim that there are too many “bad” teachers…and the teachers unions are only there to protect them. The “reformers” are only trying to help the children by busting the union and getting rid of teachers who cost too much money the “bad” ones.

Turns out that this is also something that the “reformers” and the general public think they know, but is actually untrue. In fact, the presence of teachers unions increases the quality of the teachers. Who would have thought that good teachers want to work in places where they have job protections and higher salaries – go figure.

The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers: Evidence from the District-Teacher Matched Panel Data on Teacher Turnover

The data confirms that, compared to districts with weak unionism, districts with strong unionism dismiss more low-quality teachers and retain more high-quality teachers. The empirical analysis shows that this dynamic of teacher turnover in highly unionized districts raises average teacher quality and improves student achievement.

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Education “reform,” led by people who know nothing about teaching, and funded by the “billionaire boys club” who think that money equals knowledge, has driven good teachers away from public education.

Why do teachers end their careers early? People change or leave careers for myriad reasons, but when it comes to education “reform,” teachers leave because…

Commentary: Why One First Grade Teacher Is Saying Goodbye

I guess the big-picture problem is that all this stuff we’re talking about here is coming from on top, from above, be it the federal government, the commonwealth of Massachusetts, the school administration. But the voices of teachers are lost. I mean, nobody talks to teachers. Or, if they do talk to teachers, they’re not listening to teachers.

And that’s, I think, the frustration — that this stuff just comes down, and we sit with each other: “Well, who thought of this?” or “Why do they think this is a good idea?” It’s kind of like “Why not come and talk with us first?” We actually are professionals who work with kids. We want what’s best for kids. We know what works. We know what doesn’t work.

When you make a profession unattractive people won’t want to do it. They’ll leave when they realize what it’s like, or they’ll just never go into teaching to begin with.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

Without the slightest hint of irony, legislators in Indiana claimed not to understand why there’s a teacher shortage. So the legislature established a panel to examine the causes of the shortage and come up with some solutions.

Last October the legislature had an “open meeting” in which citizens and experts were allowed to voice their opinions about the teacher shortage. “Experts” (from the Friedman Foundation and other privatizer organizations) testified that there was no shortage. Supporters of public education reminded the legislators that the shortage, which did exist, was of their own creation (See the reports from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education – Monroe County, HERE, HERE, and HERE).

 

Educators devise eight solutions for Indiana’s teacher shortage

The panel charged with creating solutions to the teacher shortage returned the following ideas…some of which are in direct opposition to “reform” [emphasis added].

  • Establish ongoing state funding for a flexible, locally designed mentoring program for new teachers and teachers new to a particular school corporation.
  • Create and implement a multimedia marketing campaign promoting the teaching profession.
  • Allow for locally developed teacher pay models that provide for regular salary increases and reward advanced degrees.
  • Reduce the number of standardized tests by promoting teacher-constructed student assessment models.
  • Provide more scholarships and financial aid to college students considering a teaching career.
  • Improve collaboration between schools and teacher preparation programs so potential educators have as much classroom experience as possible before they begin working.
  • Enhance on-the-job professional development opportunities for current teachers.
  • Re-imagine teacher career pathways and pay to enable teachers to take on school leadership roles and still remain in the classroom.

THE PROBLEM IS POVERTY, INEQUITY, RACISM

The real problem isn’t teachers

Teachers and public schools can’t solve the problems of poverty, inequity, and racism alone. Starving the public schools by diverting tax dollars to charter schools or to private schools through vouchers won’t change anything. Policy makers have to stand up and accept their responsibility for the economic conditions in which children grow up and in which the nation’s public schools are required to operate.

One, how much responsibility for unequal education can be reasonably laid at the feet of public schools and teachers — and how much belongs to the broader community for failing to dismantle persistent and durable barriers to equal opportunity such as poverty, systemic racism and income inequality?

Two, is the way we currently measure teacher quality helpful, or even accurate?

…For example, access to a good education is not going to make up for the fact that mom and dad lack jobs or that their full-time jobs do not pay enough to keep the family clothed, housed, healthy, and fed. The highest-quality teachers in the world do not have the power to lift an individual student out of poverty if the country’s system of wealth distribution is rigged against her. Teachers and public schools are not equipped to end the systemic racism that underlies the fact that five times more young black men are shot dead by U.S. police than young white men and that one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. There are some problems in the community that cannot be surmounted by education alone, yet education and teachers are persistently portrayed as a panacea for all of society’s ills.

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

2016 Medley #14

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

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

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

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

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

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

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

Polk Teacher’s Resignation Letter Hits a Nerve

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

Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.

THE CANDIDATES

The Candidates on Public Education

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

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

Education Mirages and Presidential Politics—Hillary Clinton

…she supported lowering class size…

…backed No Child Left Behind…

…said that teachers need better pay…

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

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

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

Donald Trump’s Education Mirage

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

Trump constantly says he will get rid of Common Core…

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

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

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

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

Public Schools With a President Bernie Sanders

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

PRIVATIZATION: REFORM

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

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

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

UNION POWER

Teachers’ Unions Are Associated with Higher Student Test Scores

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

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

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

AMERICA’S PRIORITIES

A War for Education

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

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

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

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

POVERTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. They have a higher socioeconomic status.

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

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

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

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

CLASS SIZE MATTERS

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

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

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

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

SUPPORT YOUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also Raise Your Hand for Public Education

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