Category Archives: Teachers Unions

2016 Medley #2: MLK, Get the Lead Out, Testing, and the Earth

Dr. King, Lead Poisoning, 
Testing, Climate Change

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING

In honor of MLK Day I present this quote from Dr. King for the benefit of the Indiana General Assembly which is doing its best to “bust the union.” The legislators have already taken away most of teachers’ rights to collective bargaining, benefits based on seniority, due process in labor disputes, and have forced school corporations to use the junk-science of evaluating teachers using test scores. This year they have another collection of bills including one which would “[pit] teachers against one another in a bidding war” for salary dollars.

The plan is to further weaken the Indiana State Teachers Association because “UNION!”

Dr. King said,

Weekend Quotables

The two most dynamic movements that reshaped the nation during the past three decades are the labor and civil rights movements. Our combined strength is potentially enormous. — Speech given to the Illinois State AFL-CIO, Oct. 7, 1965

POISONING FLINT

Why is lead poisoning even an issue any more? We know the damage it does. We know how to get rid of it. We are just too focused on making money to spend what we need to spend to fix our problems.

The news about Flint Michigan’s lead-polluted water supply isn’t news any more. The damage however has been done…

Why should we care? Take some time to read about the risks of lead poisoning for our nation’s children and the damage it does.

Lead Poisoning Is Still A Public Health Crisis For African-Americans

Before Freddie Gray died of spinal injuries he received in police custody, sparking weeks of protest in his native Baltimore and around the country, he was a “lead kid,” one of thousands of children in the city with toxic levels of lead in their blood from years of living in substandard housing — and long-term health problems as a result.

“Paint was peeling off the windows,” recalled Gray in the 2009 deposition of a lead-poising lawsuit he and his siblings filed against the owners of the building they grew up in. For children like Gray, who was 25 years old when he died in April, lead poisoning can mean ADHD, behavior problems, and irreversible brain and central nervous damage.

Lead Poisoning

What’s the future of the children of Flint and other places where lead poisoning is prevalent?

Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children. Other sources include contaminated air, water and soil. Adults who work with batteries, do home renovations or work in auto repair shops also may be exposed to lead.

I’ve written about lead poisoning before. I’ll ask the same question I have on numerous occasions; When are we going to get serious about the health of the children in our nation?

From earlier this year…Poisoning Children, then Blaming Them: The Lead Connection

The World Health Organization (WHO) says of lead poisoning…

The consequences of brain injury from exposure to lead in early life are loss of intelligence, shortening of attention span and disruption of behaviour. Because the human brain has little capacity for repair, these effects are untreatable and irreversible. They cause diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life.

From April, 2013…Update to Poisoned Children and “Reform”

The Arizona School Boards Association has published a report (available in pdf) titled, A Strange Ignorance The role of lead poisoning in failing schools.. The executive summary contains the following.

Not all children can learn, not when they have been poisoned. If environmental lead, instead of calcium, is incorporated into a child’s rapidly developing brain tissue “between birth and age three,” those tissues will not function correctly. Ever. By the time children reach the public schools, the damage has been done, and it is irreversible.

Lead is an incredibly potent neurotoxin prevalent in older neighborhoods. It takes a surprisingly small amount of lead to damage developing brains, a few sand-grain sized paint chips will do it. Those children, in turn, will sustain brain damage that ensures both educational and social problems for the rest of their life. This early lead poisoning has been linked to:

  1. an inability to learn because brain tissues constructed of lead do not bind properly to form the neural learning connections,
  2. to attention deficit disorders because lead damaged brain tissues have a tendency to misfire and disrupt normal concentration,
  3. to violence because the careful balance of brain structures in the prefrontal cortex that inhibits impulsivity and violence is disrupted, and
  4. to drug use because untreated sufferers find illegal drugs help to medicate the agitation caused by lead damaged brain cells.

From May, 2011…No Excuses

Study links lead exposure, low student test scores

Children who ingested even small amounts of lead performed poorly later on school tests compared to students who were never exposed to the substance, according to a new study of Connecticut students.

The Duke University study also found that black children were much more likely to have experienced lead poisoning from paint residue, dust or other sources by age 7 than the state’s white children. Educators worry that factor might be among many contributing to Connecticut’s status as the state with the largest achievement gap between the races…

Several other government and university research studies nationwide over the years have found links between lead poisoning and delays in academic and cognitive growth, although the Duke study is Connecticut’s first research linking individual students to their test results.

TESTING

High Stakes Testing Doesn’t Protect Civil Rights – It Violates Them

NCLB was sold to the American people to fight the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” as if “expectations” alone were enough to increase student learning. The nation’s children are still waiting for its adults to invest in their children. Instead we have invested in testing companies and private corporate charter operators. Children are still not our nation’s priority…

Our school policies for the past few decades have been about denying the right to an equitable education to our poor and minority students. Though the ESSA holds promise to limit federal meddling, it does nothing to change that. And all these people who cry foul at a potential loss of federal power are either ignorant or crying crocodile tears.

It’s no wonder that hundreds of civil rights organizations oppose high stakes testing. Nor is it surprising that the media rarely reports it. And it shouldn’t be a shock to learn that the overwhelming majority of civil rights organizations who have suddenly began championing testing are those who get big donations from the philanthro-capitalists pushing this agenda.

How Measurement Fails Doctors and Teachers

The New York Times decries the test and punish culture, but they start with a false assumption. When “education reform” moved into full swing about 2 decades ago, our schools were not lagging behind those in other countries. What was lagging behind…and what still lags behind…is our ability to take care of our children. We still remain the nation with the highest child poverty level among wealthy nations in the world. Poverty and our neglect of poverty is what’s causing failure in our schools.

In education, it became clear that our schools were lagging behind those in other countries.

The times goes on to speak about the damage done to the profession of teaching by the test-and-punish policies of the last two administrations.

…the objections became harder to dismiss as evidence mounted that even superb and motivated professionals had come to believe that the boatloads of measures, and the incentives to “look good,” had led them to turn away from the essence of their work. In medicine, doctors no longer made eye contact with patients as they clicked away. In education, even parents who favored more testing around Common Core standards worried about the damaging influence of all the exams.

We have ignored teachers’ voices.

Whatever we do, we have to ask our clinicians and teachers whether measurement is working, and truly listen when they tell us that it isn’t. Today, that is precisely what they’re saying…

Our businesslike efforts to measure and improve quality are now blocking the altruism, indeed the love, that motivates people to enter the helping professions. While we’re figuring out how to get better, we need to tread more lightly in assessing the work of the professionals who practice in our most human and sacred fields.

(h/t Cumudgucation)

Afflicting the afflicted

At least as important as protecting our students from the damage done by bad tests is that student test scores shouldn’t be used to measure schools or teachers to begin with. There is no basis it.

Steve Hinnefeld notes that in Indiana legislators are once again focusing the damage done by standardized tests on the schools trying to teach high poverty children.

Indiana schools that get successive Fs face increasingly severe state sanctions. Schools that reach six Fs in a row – and apparently there are three that could this year – face state takeover.

This doesn’t make any sense. The only reason for SB 200 in the first place is that the spring 2015 ISTEP tests were so difficult that it would be unfair to base grades on those results. But if that’s the case for schools that got an A, B, C or D in 2013-14, it should be just as true for schools that got an F…Schools that had been getting Fs may have made extraordinary efforts to improve. If ISTEP had stayed the same, maybe their grades would have gone up. But with the tougher 2015 test and the much higher bar for passing, they may have fallen short.

Many of these schools serve the largest numbers of poor children. For them, accountability can seem an affliction. And now the legislature is giving other schools a break but not them.

New Jersey Study Commission on Testing: Keep Weighing the Pig

Russ Walsh understands that you don’t improve learning by more and more testing. He asks three important questions…SPOILER ALERT: The answer to all three questions is NO!

Are standardized tests an effective way to hold schools accountable?
[…]
Are PARCC tests “high quality?”
[…]
Are standardized tests effective in narrowing the achievement gap?

…I have an idea. Instead of yearly testing, let’s all just stipulate that the achievement gap exists and that it is in reality an opportunity gap. Then we can do away with all the tests that keep telling us what we already know and focus our attention on things that are likely to reduce the opportunity gap like cleaner, safer schools, wrap around health and wellness programs, and attracting high quality teachers.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Your Participation is Not Optional

Aside from ignoring science when it comes to using high stakes tests for purposes other than that for which they were developed, we are a nation of anti-science anti-intellectuals. In the recent Republican debate we heard that we won’t ruin the economy in order to move to cleaner power (also read: we’re not going to disappoint my donors from the fossil fuel industry) and since we can’t solve the problem by ourselves let’s not worry about it.

I wonder if Trump with “believe” in science once his buildings on the coasts start taking on water…

Belief in global warming is optional, but participation is mandatory.

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Filed under Article Medleys, climate change, Lead, MLK, Teachers Unions, Testing

2015 Medley #27: Surprise! There’s a Teacher Shortage

Surprise! There’s a Teacher Shortage

Why are there teacher shortages in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, California, Louisiana…

Over the past few years, I’ve written about the local and nation-wide impending teacher shortage and why teachers quit. It should come as no surprise to anyone…it has been obvious to anyone who has been paying attention. Teachers have been blamed for all the ills facing public schools especially low achievement…even though we know that low achievement accompanies low income. Poverty implies lower achievement — no other in-school or out-of-school factor is as consistent. Republican politicians are quick to blame teachers unions, and some Democrats have joined in with that song as well, but blaming unions doesn’t explain why there is such low achievement in a state like Mississippi with very few unionized teachers. It doesn’t explain why achievement is higher in states like Massachusetts and New Jersey — states with high union membership and strong unions. Poverty does.

“Reformers” don’t seem to be willing to discuss poverty as a factor in school achievement. They don’t seem to be willing to expend as many resources and as much energy “fixing” poverty as they do destroying public education. Yet, killing the teaching profession has only made things worse.

On the other hand, is it possible that “reformers” want to destroy the teaching profession along with public schools? No teaching profession means cheap labor as states pass laws allowing anyone to teach…it means no professionals who understand the teaching and learning process and who will call out the practices that get in the way of student learning. It means no pensions…and more profit.

Below are articles about Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Florida…and one final punch in the face to Chris Christie.

MICHIGAN

Another One Bites the Dust

A Michigan middle school math teacher (and Facebook friend of mine) wrote a piece which was picked up by Valerie Strauss, Diane Ravitch, mlive, Common Dreams, and the Huffington Post. We originally posted it on the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) blog and Facebook page.

The teacher, Stephanie, wrote a heartfelt letter explaining why she decided to leave public education and take a job at a private school. In her letter she reported on what Michigan “reformers” have done to damage public education and hurt public school teachers.

…I have been forced to comply with mandates — from the Republicans at the state level and the Democrats at the national level — that are NOT in the best interest of kids. I am tired of having to perform what I consider to be educational malpractice, in the name of “accountability”. The amount of time lost to standardized tests that are of no use to me as a classroom teacher is mind-boggling. And when you add in mandatory quarterly district-wide tests, which are used to collect data that is ignored, you get a situation that is beyond ridiculous…

…due to a chronic, purposeful underfunding of public schools here in Michigan, my take-home pay has been frozen or decreased for the past five years, and I don’t see the situation getting any better in the near future…

Starve the public schools, then blame the teachers for not performing miracles. Drive career teachers out and replace them with cheap temps.

Stephanie explained that she didn’t want to leave public education. She was a product of public schools, a public school mom, a public school teacher, and a public school advocate. She has supported public schools throughout her career. Leaving is heartbreaking and difficult for her, but she, like so many others have had enough.

Reactions

Aside from the comments of support…and a few from the usual trolls claiming that teachers are overpaid and have it easy…

…there was an interesting reaction (which also wasn’t a surprise) from a public school supporter.

After reading her letter, Jim Horn at Schools Matter focused on the fact that Stephanie attended the last two Network for Public Education (NPE) conferences, and, since he drools in anticipation whenever he has an opportunity to badmouth anything to do with Diane Ravitch, he minimized Stephanie’s commitment to fighting for public education as “endless cheerleading.” Yes, because she attended the NPE conferences.

Perhaps he wanted her to organize and rally at the state capital. Wait…she’s done that.

Perhaps he wanted her to confront legislators and publicly go on record against anti-public school legislation. Wait…she’s done that, too.

I’ve mentioned his Ravitch-bashing before…Anything relating to Diane Ravitch is fair game for his attacks. I think it’s clear he’s jealous that Diane Ravitch has actually done something productive by forming the NPE to help support public education. Then there’s the fact that she has a large following…whereas all he can do is complain that we all don’t agree with him 100% of the time.

I’m not going to link to his blog. If you want to read what he wrote you can google it.

INDIANA

Indiana’s got a problem: Too many teachers don’t want to work there anymore

Senate Education Committee Chair, and State Senator Dennis Kruse and his House counterpart, Representative Robert Behning want to “study” why there is a teacher shortage in Indiana. Behning has spent the last 15 years bashing teachers and trashing public schools. He entered the House of Representatives in 1992 as a Florist…but now he runs an “educational lobbying company.” Both have worked to make public education less public.

The teacher shortage in Indiana is becoming such a problem that some state lawmakers want a legislative committee to study the issue and come up with solutions. According to the Indianapolis Star, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate education committees have asked General Assembly leaders to approve having the legislative education study committee review what is causing the drop and how the state could respond.

For one thing, they can look in the mirror. The Republican leadership of the state — including Gov. Mike Pence — showed their respect for teachers by working very hard this year to strip power from Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a veteran educator who won election to the post in 2012 (by defeating Tony Bennett, the incumbent who was a protege of former Florida governor Jeb Bush). Oh, by the way, she is a Democrat. David Long, the Republican president of the Indiana Senate, said while explaining why the legislature would want to remove Ritz as chairman of the state Board of Education: “In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, okay?”

Why a teacher shortage? Try asking a teacher

A former principal understands what is driving student failure. He also understands that giving wealthy schools and poor schools equal per pupil funding is inherently unequal.

…To take inner-city resources (Indianapolis, Gary, etc.) to reward “A” schools (Carmel, Zionsville, etc.), which already have abundant resources, is immoral. In other words, the competitive model of accountability does not fit in a democratic institution that cannot afford to have winners and losers.

Everyone should have the opportunity to grow and learn. Since not every child is blessed equally, it is incumbent upon policy makers to help overcome this difference by allocating resources where they are needed most. Current policies do just the opposite. Is it any wonder why inner-city schools will have the hardest time filling teaching positions?

Your solution, offering monetary rewards based on a test, is insulting to those who know the vagarious nature of such tests, and it falsely assumes teachers just need to work harder. Such extrinsic rewards miss the point. If the goal is to attract people to the profession, we should start by realizing teachers are motivated by something much more meaningful than money.

…A teacher shortage? It was inevitable. It seems everyone saw it coming but the ones who tried making policy in a vacuum devoid of solid, authentic research and educational expertise.

So, chairmen Kruse and Behning are forming a committee to study the cause of a shortage they helped create. I have a suggestion: call a teacher — any teacher — and ask them. They’ll give you the answer.

KANSAS

Kansas Underfunded Education And Cut Tenure. Now It Can’t Find Enough Teachers To Fill Classrooms.

Kansas has joined with other states in the process of destroying their own public education system. Do they wonder what’s causing the teacher shortage?

Teachers are being forced to do more with less, and not necessarily getting appreciated for it, said Dean Katt, superintendent of Hays Public Schools.

“Teachers are working many more hours, much harder. They’re doing it on their own and don’t have the support we should be giving them,” said Katt.

He continued, “[They face] constant bashing from the governor and legislature, [who] in my opinion are trying to privatize education and just destroy it.”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment regarding the teacher shortage.

A Memo To States: This Is How You Create A Teacher Shortage

A satirical, but accurate look at how to destroy a profession. The links were included in the original. With very little effort we could also provide links to the same sorts of sites for Indiana…

The How To Create A Teacher Shortage Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup of rhetoric against teachers

2 pounds of bills and programs that attempt to de-professionalize teaching (specifically, a proposed bill that would make it easier to jail teachers for teaching materials deemed offensive and a new program that lifts teacher licensure requirements in certain districts)

3 tablespoons of a lack of due process rights for teachers

½ cup of finely diced repeated budget cuts amid a state revenue crisis

1 stalk of a new school funding system that is currently being challenged in state court

2 grinds of growing child poverty throughout the state

3 tablespoons of low teacher pay

1/3 cup of large numbers of teacher retirements

FLORIDA

Brevard teachers leave ‘in droves’ for other jobs

Jeb’s legacy is still strong.

Teachers in Brevard County have cited low morale as their main concern about teaching here — and many are leaving the district for greener pastures.

Four pages worth of resignations and retirements filled part of the last school board’s agenda, citing personal reasons, relocations and other employment. On this agenda item, 73 teachers resigned and 80 retired.

According to human resources information from Brevard Public Schools that is just one fragment of the group of teachers leaving. Data show that 368 teachers voluntarily resigned this year, the biggest number in the past five years — however that is not too far off from the 365 who voluntarily resigned or retired over the 2014-15 school year.

The Single Most Destructive Force in Public Education

Chris Christie said that he wanted to punch the “national teachers union in the face” and teachers unions were “the single most destructive force in public education.” Apparently Christie doesn’t know that states with strong teacher unions have higher student achievement than states with weak or non-existent unions.

Russ Walsh turns the tables on Christie.

The single most destructive force in public education is income inequity. Poverty has a devastating impact on a child’s educational achievement. With 25% of school children living in poverty, it is small wonder public education is struggling in impoverished areas.

The second most destructive force in public education is politicians and corporate education reformers who wish to ignore income inequity and blame teachers unions for the problems in public education. Teachers and their unions, want a strong viable system of public education. We would like politicians and well- financed reformers to work with us and stop threatening to punch us. [emphasis added]

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Filed under Article Medleys, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Teachers Unions, WhyTeachersQuit

Random Quotes – August 2015

A PLAYGROUND BULLY

Hey, Governor Christie, Punch My Face!

It’s all over the web…New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to punch the “national teachers union” in the face. Christie apparently doesn’t understand — or perhaps he just doesn’t care — that the “national teachers union” is made up of millions of teachers, not to mention that there is more than one national teachers union.

On the other hand, Trump’s numbers soared after he badmouthed immigrants. Perhaps Christie’s numbers will increase when Republicans see how much he hates unions and teachers.

Was Chris Christie bullied as a child…and his teacher failed to protect him? Is that why he hates teachers so much?

In any case, the best response to the New Jersey Bully has been…

from Russ on Reading

“I regret that I have only one face to give for my profession.”

TEACHERS KNOW MORE THAN ARNE DUNCAN

CHARTERS

Indiana: Charter Advocate Says It is Time to Close Down Low-Performing Charters

People are starting to see that Charters are no better than real public schools. Thirty percent of Detroit’s charters have closed because they “failed.”

In Indiana, someone has noticed that charter schools are not doing any better than our real public schools — and, in many cases, a lot worse.

From Diane Ravitch

The hype, spin, and empty promises of the charter movement have run their course. Teach for America’s claims that its inexperienced kids could close the achievement gap are obviously hollow. Chris Barbic’s Achievement School District in Tennessee is a failure. The chickens are coming home to roost. You can’t fool all the people all the time.

TESTING

Test and Punish and Civil Rights

Has any teacher ever said, “I won’t have any idea if my students are learning without standardized test scores.”

From Peter Greene

Actually, test scores don’t tell us much of anything, because the Big Standardized Tests are narrowly focused, poorly designed, and extremely limited in their scope. Furthermore, we can predict test score results pretty well just using demographic information. So to claim that we would be fumbling in the dark without these tests, with no idea of how to find schools that were in trouble, is simply ridiculous.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

The Substitute Shortage

Schools around the nation are facing a teacher shortage and many will have to rely on substitutes. Just one problem…there’s a shortage of substitutes, too.

From Peter Greene

Substitute shortage is yet another problem to which we know the solution. It’s just that the solution costs money, and we don’t wanna. A good substitute teacher is worth her weight in gold, but we prefer to offer only peanuts.

Missouri school district billboard in Kansas

We Won’t Get Great Teachers By Treating Them Badly

How can you get more people to invest their time and energy in the quest to become a teacher?

From The Education Opportunity Network

…it just stands to reason that when you make a job more stressful and negative, you’re going to get fewer qualified people who want to do it.

DOES AMERICA REALLY HATE ITS CHILDREN?

How To Train Teachers

We live in a nation that hates education…and doesn’t really care much for our children. We’re a nation that lives only in the present. We aren’t willing to invest in our future — our children — because that would mean sacrificing a little money now.

From Peter Greene

And so we arrive at the same old problem that badgers education around every turn– we know how to do it right, but that would be expensive, and we don’t want to spend a bunch of money on education.

More children are in poverty today than before the Great Recession

How can we justify tax breaks for rich people when so many of our children live in poverty? Why isn’t this a national embarrassment?

From PBS

One out of five American children live in poverty…

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Filed under Charters, Curmudgucation, John Kuhn, poverty, Quotes, Ravitch, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage, Testing

2014 Medley #10

Tenure, Privatization,
Unions and Teachers, ADHD

TENURE

Kansas lawmakers pass school finance bill merging funding equity with education reforms

Urged on by conservative special interests such as Americans for Prosperity, Republican leaders pressed hard to eliminate due process rights for teachers.

They say the proposal is intended to ensure that school administrators are free from regulations that would keep them from firing substandard teachers.

“If you talk to administrators, they want this,” said Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican. “They want really good teachers to thrive. They don’t want to be in a position to protect those teachers who are under-performing.”

State law had required administrators to document conduct and provide a hearing for teachers they want to fire after three years on the job.

The bill means terminated teachers would no longer be able to request a hearing.

K-12 teachers in America know, however, that “tenure” is not a guarantee of a job for life. It’s simply a guarantee of due process.

In a comment to another post about the Kansas legislature stripping teachers of due process someone wrote,

No Government employee, not one one [sic], deserves tenure. They are no better than the rest of us.

The commenter is right that government employees “are no better than the rest of us.” However, he’s wrong because he doesn’t understand what tenure means in K-12 education. Everyone, even government employees, deserves due process.

More articles reminding anyone who will listen that tenure equals due process.

The myth of teacher tenure

It is a myth that teacher tenure provides a guarantee of lifetime employment. Tenure is no more than a legal commitment (set by the state and negotiated union contracts) to procedural due process, ensuring notice and providing a hearing for generally accepted reasons for termination, such as incompetency, insubordination, and immorality.

Five Myths About Tenure and FILO

2. Tenure Guarantees a Job for Life

A zombie argument that won’t die no matter how many times it is shot in the head. Tenure guarantees due process. Tenure guarantees that districts can only fire teachers for some good reason. That is it.

Dear Bill Maher: Here’s Why You’re Wrong About Tenure

…tenure is not a guarantee of a job for life: it is simply a guarantee of due process. Let’s make it easy, quick, and inexpensive to remove a bad teacher: everyone is for that. But let’s make it fair. Tenure is nothing more than a guarantee that firing a teacher is just that. 

PRIVATIZATION

Privatizing Wisconsin schools is no answer

Reduce funding for public schools through tax cuts and budget cuts. Then, give away what’s left to private corporate charters and private schools through vouchers. It’s not about improving education. It’s about changing public education to a national privatized education system.

Our recent ranking as the worst state for African-American students’ reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress is an embarrassment, and these experiments haven’t helped one bit.

For the past 20 years, we have been messing around with Milwaukee’s school system through a series of charter and voucher schemes that have not been proven to have better outcomes than public schools. Despite it being part of their intended purpose, these schools have done nothing to close the achievement gap between African-American and white students.

Yet the Wisconsin Legislature continues to work to dismantle public education through a series of new laws to further expand charter and voucher schools statewide.

Charter Schools: The Promise and the Peril

The first mistake in this article is the claim that “A charter school is a public school…” It’s not. It’s a private school, run by private corporations (some for-profit, some not for-profit) taking public money.

The second mistake is the statement that, “A charter school is a public school governed by a nonprofit organization…” Some charters are, indeed, run by nonprofits, however that is by no means true in every case.

A charter school is a public school governed by a nonprofit organization under a contract—or charter—with a state or local government. This charter exempts the school from selected rules and regulations. In return for funding and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards as defined by its charter.

Emanuel avoids direct answer on charter school performance

Rahm Emanuel is looking out for the charter schools run by his buddies. He won’t admit that they were brought in to privatize the Chicago Public School system, beat the union, and fill his friends’ pockets. He won’t admit that they don’t do a better job than the Chicago Public schools did with the same students.

The number of privately-run charter schools in Chicago has grown — from none in 1996 to more than 130 today, with more set to open later this year. Charters and other privately run schools now serve nearly one of every seven Chicago public school students.

But, even as many parents have embraced the new schools, there’s little evidence in standardized test results that charters are performing better than traditional schools operated by the Chicago Public Schools system, an examination by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University has found.

In fact, in 2013, CPS schools had a higher percentage of elementary students who exceeded the standards for state tests for reading and math than the schools that are privately run with Chicago taxpayer funds.

Charter-mania, high-stakes testing and teacher-bashing: Can Rhee’s approach be stopped?

The status quo “reform” agenda isn’t working…and hasn’t worked for the last 3 decades. It’s time to end the testing insanity and go back to teaching and learning.

And so here we are in 2014, the year which 100 percent of kids were supposed to be proficient on the standards. And you know, we’ve got 90 percent of the schools in the country that are now declared quote, you know, “failing” – which some people thought was the goal of the law to begin with. But we really haven’t made strides on meeting a 21st century learning agenda, because we’ve driven all of the instruction around low-quality multiple-choice tests.

Education “reformers” resort to Fox News-style scaremongering

Read Shock Doctrine. It defines the process that the privatizers have been following perfectly.

  1. Wait for or create a disaster.
  2. Rush in with money for privatization.

…so-called education reformers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by spreading confusion. Their sound bites are their strongest weapons — but for that to remain so, they need to ensure that sustained, reality-based discussions never take hold, because their words ring hollow to the well-informed.

UNIONS AND TEACHERS

10 Myths and Facts about Teacher Unions

Part of the move towards privatization is based on union hate.

Myth 4: Unions only defend bad teachers

Fact: Unions defend the due process rights of all teachers equally. There are bad teachers, just like there are bad bankers and bad grocery store managers. A union, however, seeks to help all employees grow in their abilities and performances for the best interests of the employee and the employer.

Myth 10: Unions are ruining education

Fact: States, districts, and schools with a strong union culture have a strong component of collaboration. In fact, the states that perform the best in the U.S. are strong union states. The same can be said about most schools. Likewise, while the focus seems to continue to be on “defending the taxpayer,” unions are often times the only organization left defending the best interests of students and teachers.

Teachers: A Call to Battle for Reluctant Warriors

Anthony Cody asks if teachers are ready to stand up…

But the truth leaks out. Reed Hastings reveals his aspiration to use the expansion of charter schools to sideline elected school boards across the country. Charter schools, sold on the basis that traditional schools are broken, rarely do better, and in many cases do worse than the schools they replace. Teach For America novices turn over at such high rates that they promote instability wherever they go. The destruction of due process feeds high turnover, as is already seen at many charter schools where it is absent or weak. And the instability and churn that is the hallmark of corporate reform is damaging to students and their communities.

Guest commentary: Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions

The following is a perfect example of how the U.S., as a nation, doesn’t care about its children.

It’s interesting how so many people with limited or no classroom teaching are quick to weigh in on educational issues. From Bill Gates and Eli Broad to Michelle Rhee and now Tony Smith, these self-proclaimed education “reformers” are short on education experience and long on placing the blame for educational failures where it doesn’t belong.

The recent opinion piece by Tony Smith, former superintendent of Oakland Unified School District is full of misleading and false statements that only serve to distract us from the real problems facing our schools.

Contrary to what Tony Smith and the plaintiffs in the Vergara v. California case contend, laws protecting teachers’ rights don’t punish children. When students in our poorest neighborhoods receive a substandard education, it’s not because hordes of “bad teachers” are being protected at their expense.

Our students are punished by the chronic underfunding of schools, which denies them access to smaller class sizes, a balance of new and veteran teachers, a curriculum that includes both the arts and career training, and sufficient support services.

ADHD

Confirmation of neurobiological origin of attention-deficit disorder

ADHD is a real, neurologically based condition.

The neurobiological origin of attention-deficit disorder (ADD), a syndrome whose causes are poorly understood, has just been confirmed by a study carried out on mice. Researchers have identified a cerebral structure, the superior colliculus, where hyperstimulation causes behavior modifications similar to those of some patients who suffer from ADD. Their work also shows noradrenaline accumulation in the affected area, shedding light on this chemical mediator having a role in attention disorders.

See the results of the study HERE.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Filed under ADHD, Article Medleys, Privatization, Teachers Unions, Tenure

2013 Medley #19

Charters, Teachers Unions, Privatization
“Reformers”, Read-Aloud, Poverty

CHARTERS

Bennett is gone, but charter school problem persists

“An $80 million gift to charter school sponsors.” This looks like payback for political services rendered. Why isn’t the apparent favoritism in this situation obvious to everyone?

So, with Dr. Bennett gone, is the special treatment for charter schools over? Hardly. Not known to most Hoosiers is the fact that the 2013 Indiana Legislature, with the governor’s signature, enacted into law the HB 1001 budget bill, including a provision added in the Senate that forgave all Common School Fund debts owed by charter schools in Indiana.

Based upon a printout dated Jan. 2, 2013, that provision forgave charter schools $81,828,253.30. Some reports have placed the value at $93 million. With the passage of this legislation, the forgiven debt and the assets purchased by the borrowed funds became the assets of the individuals and/or corporations that sponsor the charter schools — an $80 million gift to charter school sponsors.

Public school districts with low assessed valuation borrow from the Common Schools Fund, which assists them by providing low-interest loans for capital expenditures, such as facilities and equipment. A report on Jan. 2, 2013, shows $85,508,760.18 is owed by Indiana public school districts. Their debt was not forgiven.

Indiana forgives charter school loans

State Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) said,

traditional public schools just want more money.

Well…yes! Isn’t that what we pay taxes for? Why are privately owned public schools treated differently than traditional (publicly owned) public schools?

Many local educators and politicians are calling outrageous a recent law forgiving $91.2 million in loans to charter schools, in light of tight finances faced by public schools across the region and districts that have had to raise taxes to maintain programs and quality teachers. Moreover, they say, they must pay back any loans provided by the state’s Common School Fund.

Indiana’s General Assembly approved a provision in last session’s budget bill calling for the state to forgive the Common School Fund loans made to charter schools, erasing nearly $92 million of their debt to the state.

UNIONS

Evidence Says That Students Do Better In Schools With Strong Teachers’ Unions

Union bashing is a tried and true political tool. Especially now, when unemployment and a low minimum wage are making it harder and harder for the average person to keep up with expenses. Rich politicians will blame unions for negotiating a livable wage and benefits package for their members. In Illinois, for example, politicians are currently blaming the public employee pension funds instead of the hedge fund managers, millionaires/billionaires and their corporate cronies, friends, and investors — many of whom don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

The fact is that unions are not the cause of poor school achievement. Poverty and its accompanying out of school factors are the main problem facing America’s public school students. More than one fifth of our children live in poverty. Shouldn’t shame and embarrassment be the appropriate response to that particular statistic instead of blaming their teachers?

Unions such as the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have been blamed by politicians, think tanks, and the public for everything from low student achievement to blocking proposed education reforms.

However, despite claims from some quarters that unions are a large part of the problem with American public education, there is ample evidence that teachers’ unions are a vital piece of the education puzzle, and that students benefit from their existence.

“nea hearts arne” or “WTF? are you crazy!!!”

The NEA has sold out for a “seat at the table.” NEA now supports the Common Core…and has refused to publicly denounce the damage that the Democrats in Washington are doing to public education. Could this be because they want to keep the Gates Foundation money flowing? (Full Disclosure: I’m an NEA Life Member, and have been a member since August, 1976)

If Dennis Van Roekel and the NEA leadership had any courage they would be organizing a nation-wide strike against No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the misuse and overuse of testing, closing traditional neighborhood schools and opening charters, vouchers (by any name), the use of untrained novices in classrooms needing the most experienced teachers, and the general privatization of public education. Instead they’re writing blogs supporting the Common Core.

New Business Item 36 called for the removal of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. Despite several well-informed speeches in support of this NBI, it was defeated. It is a mystery to me how a room full of educators, all of us victims of Duncan’s horrific education policies, could continue to support Arne Duncan. His policies are harming our nation’s non-elite children and the majority vote seems to send a message that that’s OK with the majority of teachers. WTF? Either there’s not much critical thinking going on among the delegation, or people are just plain stupid.

PRIVATIZATION

Privatization Watch tracks the selling of America’s public sector…

August 27, 2013

OH: New state report card proves Ohio’s charter school experiment has failed. After 15 years of charter school expansion, the new Ohio school report cards provide the strongest evidence yet that this method of using charter schools to supposedly reform education in our state is a complete failure. The latest results from the state make it clear that the large urban districts are not dramatically improving and the charter schools that are supposed to be transforming educational practices while being given every advantage (including a greater amount of state funding) are doing no better. Plunderbund

August 30, 2013

PA: Charter operator owed its schools millions, but no one’s checking its books. The Philadelphia School District will spend a projected $729 million on charter schools in the coming fiscal year. But, if the past year at one charter operator is any indication, not all of those funds will actually go toward serving students. Philadelphia City Paper

“REFORMER” POLITICS

“Education Summits” Without Teachers

Would anyone ever hold a medical conference without inviting medical professionals to attend? Who would hold a Hardware convention without having hardware manufacturers, jobbers and retailers in attendance? Would the Southern Baptist Convention hold it’s annual meeting and not include any ministers?

Yet, time after time we read about conferences on education which are held in the absence of any practicing public school educators.

Words and phrases like “insulting,” “slap in the face,” and “disrespectful” aren’t adequate any longer. This is insane.

…When Barack Obama held an education summit several years ago, no teachers were invited so it is not surprising that Florida Governor Rick Scott is taking the same approach in his state by organizing his summit during school hours. The result is the nightmare we are all living with- K-12 testing and teacher evaluation based on those tests, with added pressures imposed by the full court press for the imposition of Common Core Standards…

In Our Shoes

Those politicians, policy makers, and “reformers” who hold those conferences spoken of above are afraid to invite real teachers. They might hear this…

Come walk in our shoes. See what you’ve left us with, and let’s see if YOU can ensure that every third grader can read, that every student graduates high school college and career ready. Because we can’t. And we aren’t a group people that often admit there’s something we can’t do. We can cause light bulbs to turn on inside little minds. We can inspire a love of historical facts. We can make any math concept relevant to real life. We can love a child who doesn’t know what that feels like, and we can show them that they can learn. But to do all of this without sufficient funds, sufficient staff, and, most of all, sufficient appreciation and respect, is simply becoming too tall of an order. So you give it a try. Then let’s talk.


READ ALOUD

Babies Learn to Recognize Words in the Womb

Read aloud to your baby in utero…

Be careful what you say around a pregnant woman. As a fetus grows inside a mother’s belly, it can hear sounds from the outside world—and can understand them well enough to retain memories of them after birth, according to new research.

POVERTY

How Poverty Taxes the Brain

“Reformers” claim that even mentioning poverty is making excuses. That’s because they, and the politicians they have purchased, don’t care to do anything about it. Poverty may not matter to millionaires like Rahm Emanuel, billionaires like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg or Eli Broad, “reformers” like Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, Politicians like George W. Bush and Barack Obama…but it matters to the child who comes to school hungry.

Researchers publishing some groundbreaking findings today in the journal Science have concluded that poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school, or search for a new job, or even remember to pay bills on time…

…“When your bandwidth is loaded, in the case of the poor,” Shafir says, “you’re just more likely to not notice things, you’re more likely to not resist things you ought to resist, you’re more likely to forget things, you’re going to have less patience, less attention to devote to your children when they come back from school.”

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Corp Interest, poverty, Privatization, read-alouds, Teachers Unions

Sour Grapes — Again!

On Sunday I wrote the following

The politicians of the supermajority (legislators and the governor) are doing everything they can to build more private and privately run schools using public dollars, and destroy the public schools because

  • they are still angry at Glenda Ritz (read: 1.3 million voters) for defeating Tony and are too small to let it go…

As if purposely trying to prove my point, the Republicans in the Indiana House have added insult to injury.

Another dark day for Indiana’s public schools

Another measure approved on party lines casts a blow on the state teacher unions, already battered by anti-collective bargaining laws approved two years ago. The latest measure prohibits school districts from allowing voluntary payroll deductions for union dues…No local school district officials spoke in support of the dues amendment. They currently deduct annuity payments, United Way contributions, pension payments and more from teacher paychecks. The bill would not affect those deductions.

The only purpose for this amendment is to damage the teachers unions. The only reason for adding it is spite.

It isn’t difficult for school corporations to withhold teacher union dues for teachers. It doesn’t add time or cost the local school corporation (or the state) any money. Employers all over the country already withhold money for lots of things…adding one more isn’t a problem. Furthermore, it’s voluntary. Teachers don’t have to join teachers unions. If they do, they don’t have to pay their dues through withholding. They can pay in a lump sum if they choose. The ISTA even has a way to pay monthly through their web site. There isn’t a single reason for adding this restriction to law other than to damage the union. This is union busting at its most blatant.

Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett blamed teachers unions for Bennett’s defeat in the last election. This amendment is simply sour grapes.

This has nothing to do with education of children. It’s only meant to insult teachers and their professional organizations. The writers of this amendment will go to any lengths, it seems, to show their disdain for the teachers of Indiana.

It’s like a petulant child on the playground throwing stones at someone who hurt his feelings. It’s time for the supermajority’s leadership in the Indiana General Assembly to discipline their rude and disrespectful children.

Also see:

Teachers decry union-dues move

“This is being done, in my opinion, to do nothing but stifle their representative voice, as other legislation that has been passed in recent history,” said Rick Muir, president of the Indiana Federation of Teachers.

Teachers, unions cry foul over legislators’ surprise move to prevent dues collections

“It is another anti-union attack. It does nothing to improve schools,” said ISTA President Nate Schnellenberg. “I am disappointed that these anti-teacher attacks continue. It takes away a teacher’s right to decide how they want to pay dues.”

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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