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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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