Posted in Article Medleys, Evaluations, Merit Pay, Teaching Career, Testing, WhyTeachersQuit

2017 Medley #12: Teachers

Why Teachers Quit, Teacher Evaluations, Teacher Pay, Experience Matters 

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Previous posts about why teachers quit (more).

Many legislators, privatizers, and “reformers” continue to blame teachers for low achievement. Unionism is anathema to some because teachers unions, in many places, are the only thing preventing the compete corporate takeover of public education. The right wing in America continues to push myths about failing public schools and the dual “solution” of charters and vouchers.

The teacher shortage currently afflicting public education in the U.S. is not surprising. Fewer college students are choosing education as a career due to declining wages, fewer benefits, lower social status, and the constant drumbeat of failure (see here, here, and here).

Public schools are not failing. Public schools reflect the failure of the nation to build an equitable society.

Teacher Resignation Letters Paint Bleak Picture of U.S. Education

Studies are showing what public educators already know…that “reform” is driving teachers from the classroom.

In a trio of studies, Michigan State University education expert Alyssa Hadley Dunn and colleagues examined the relatively new phenomenon of teachers posting their resignation letters online. Their findings, which come as many teachers are signing next year’s contracts, suggest educators at all grade and experience levels are frustrated and disheartened by a nationwide focus on standardized tests, scripted curriculum and punitive teacher-evaluation systems.

Teacher turnover costs more than $2.2 billion in the U.S. each year and has been shown to decrease student achievement in the form of reading and math test scores.

“The reasons teachers are leaving the profession has little to do with the reasons most frequently touted by education reformers, such as pay or student behavior,” said Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education. “Rather, teachers are leaving largely because oppressive policies and practices are affecting their working conditions and beliefs about themselves and education.”

Teacher resignation letter goes viral: ‘I will not subject my child to this disordered system’

A teacher from Florida tells why she’s leaving.

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.

Letter Written Down By A Teacher Goes Viral!

This is not a resignation letter, but this letter from a teacher in Oklahoma is indicative of the problems public school teachers face on a daily basis.

We can no longer afford rolls of colored paper or paint or tape to make signs to support and advertise our Student Council activities. This fall our football team won’t charge through a decorated banner as they take the field because we can’t afford to make the banner. There won’t be any new textbooks in the foreseeable future. Broken desks won’t be replaced. We’re about to ration copy paper and we’ve already had the desktop printers taken out of our rooms.

We live in fear that our colleagues will leave us, not just because they are our friends, but because the district wouldn’t replace them even if we could lure new teachers to our inner-city schools during the teacher shortage you[, the legislature] have caused. We fear our classes doubling in size.

We fear becoming as ineffective as you are. Not because we can’t or won’t do our job, like you, but because you keep passing mandates to make us better while taking away all the resources we need just to maintain the status quo. We fear that our second jobs will prevent us from grading the papers we already have to do from home. We fear our families will leave us because we don’t have time for them.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

Teacher Evaluation: It’s About Relationships Not Numbers

If we don’t use test scores to evaluate teachers what should we use? This question implies that test scores are not only appropriate to use as a teacher evaluation, but there isn’t anything else which is as accurate. That’s not true. Using student achievement tests to evaluate teachers (or schools) is an invalid since achievement tests are developed to evaluate students, not their teachers.

A good teacher develops relationships with her students. Good relationships improve the classroom atmosphere and create the feelings of safety and trust necessary for learning. The same is necessary for teacher evaluation; there must be a feeling of trust between the evaluator, usually an administrator, and the teacher. Russ Walsh explains…

Reformers can’t see this very simple and most basic fact of teacher evaluation because they are focused on a fool’s errand of seeking objectivity through numbers and a plan designed to weed out low performers, rather than a plan designed to improve performance of all teachers. These folks could have easily found out the flaws in the plan. All they needed to do was spend some time in schools talking to teachers and supervisors. To the extent that current teacher evaluation schemes interfere with teachers and supervisors developing trusting relationships, they are pre-ordained to fail.

TEACHER PAY

Just Paying Teachers More Won’t Stop Them From Quitting

Ask most teachers. They will tell you that they didn’t choose education because of the high pay. Most people who become teachers do so because they want to make a difference in the lives of children.

“Reformers” don’t understand that people don’t become teachers for the huge salaries. Autonomy, respect, and a living wage, is enough. Teachers are quitting because in many areas, they aren’t getting any of those.

“Teachers have also been subjected to demonization” from people and politicians from both the right and left, said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute and one of the authors of the report, noting that Education Secretary John King in January felt the need to offer what many saw as an apology to teachers after taking over the Education Department. “Despite the best of intentions, teachers and principals have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces as we strive to improve outcomes for all students,” King said at the time.

Merit Pay for Teachers Can Lead to Higher Test Scores for Students, a Study Finds

Merit pay is, as Diane Ravitch says, the idea that never works and never dies.

If you define “student learning” simply by a standardized test score, then you might be able to design a merit pay plan which will get higher test scores, but that’s not education.

This report in Education Week summarizing research into merit pay, indicates that merit pay helps teachers find ways to increase test scores for some students, oftentimes by learning to “game the system.”

Teacher participation in a merit-pay program led to the equivalent of four extra weeks of student learning, according to a new analysis of 44 studies of incentive-pay initiatives in the United States and abroad.

New Merit Pay Study Hits The Wrong Target

Peter Greene follows up on the Education Week report. He emphasizes that testing is not teaching and that “gaming the system” is essentially paying people more who learn how to cheat.

The basis of the research is wrong. Education is not a test score. Learning is not a test score.

Springer’s research suffers from the same giant, gaping ridiculous hole as the research that he meta-analyzed– he assumes that his central measure measures what it claims to measure. This is like meta-analysis of a bunch of research from eight-year-olds who all used home made rulers to measure their own feet and “found” that their feet are twice as big as the feet of eight-year-olds in other country. If you don’t ever check their home-made rulers for accuracy, you are wasting everyone’s time.

At a minimum, this study shows that the toxic testing that is already narrowing and damaging education in this country can be given a extra jolt of destructive power when backed with money. The best this study can hope to say is that incentives encourage teachers to aim more carefully for the wrong target. As one of the EdWeek commenters put it, “Why on earth would you want to reward teachers with cash for getting higher test scores?” What Springer may have proven is not that merit pay works, but that Campbell’s Law does.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter

Education is more than a test score. Teachers with experience provide more than test prep for their students.

Researchers Helen F. Ladd and Lucy C. Sorenson, both of Duke University, in Durham, N.C., analyzed records from about 1.2 million middle school students in North Carolina from 2007 to 2011, including absences, reported disciplinary offenses, and test scores. The data also contain responses from 6th through 8th graders about time spent on homework and their reading habits…

Regarding nontest outcomes, the data show that as teachers gained experience, they were linked to lower rates of student absenteeism. The researchers postulate that more experienced teachers got better at motivating students and in classroom management, resulting in better attendance and fewer infractions.

✏️📝✏️
Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Gates, Privatization, Public Ed, WhyTeachersQuit

2016 Medley #22

Charters, Why Teachers Quit,
“Failing” Schools, Local Control, Money

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

In the eyes of the NLRB, charter schools are private, not public

In order to cash in on public money spent on education charter school promoters insist that charters are “public schools.” However, in the eyes of the charter operators themselves, when they are put under pressure by the public to “act” like public schools they become private entities. See here, here, here, and here.

Now, the federal government has gotten into the discussion and has decided, through a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that charter schools are, indeed, private.

In other words, charter schools are just another voucher plan that transfers money intended for public education into private pockets.

A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), concludes that charter schools are private and efforts to start teachers unions in them should fall under their purview, rather than the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) which oversees the public sector.

The decision stemmed from efforts by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to unionize teachers at the Hyde Leadership charter school in Brooklyn.

PERB had asserted jurisdiction over the school, but the union ended up arguing that organizing efforts should be overseen by the NLRB which administers labor law in the private sector.

The NLRB in its decision, concluded that “Hyde was not established by a state or local government, and is not itself a public school.”

Detroit charter school closes just two weeks before first day of class

Local public school systems generally face a significant amount of opposition when they try to close a public school. Public meetings are held, parents argue for keeping their children’s school open, alumni come back to talk about the impact the school had on their lives, and citizens argue that the school is an integral part of the community. Closing a public school is often a time-consuming and traumatic experience for the community and the students (See this article about schools closing in my community).

Free-market proponents want schools to be subject to the whims of the marketplace. In such a system, they believe, “bad” schools will close and “good” schools will be supported. The problem is that school closings hurt children. Two weeks before school started, this charter school in Detroit closed its doors. Parents are left having to frantically search for another school for their children. This, it seems to me, is an important benefit of a public school system under the oversight of an elected school board. Real public schools don’t close two weeks before school starts, or in the middle of the year. School boards generally create a plan for relocating students from schools which are closed.

But for the charter industry…school closing is a feature, not a bug.

Just two weeks before the first day of class, a charter school on Detroit’s west side notified parents and students today that the high school has closed.

Officials for University YES Academy held an impromptu meeting today to tell high school students they needed to find another school to attend. Only parents and students were allowed in the meeting, and they were barred from using recording devices.

How charters became the most segregated schools in Indianapolis

See also The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.

…as charter schools expand their reach across the country and every year educate a larger share of the nation’s children, the issue of racial segregation has raised significant concerns among integration advocates who warn that it can push low-income students into low-achieving schools and reduce the resources going to high-needs schools.

Even at schools like Tindley that are relatively high performing, critics say graduates will be less prepared to interact with people from different backgrounds later in life.

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Why Do Teachers Stay? What Makes them Leave?

How do teachers live with the cognitive dissonance inherent in today’s educational environment? How can you justify government sponsored malpractice? Each teacher must decide if they can do enough to overcome the damage done by the test-and-punish education promoted by statehouses and the the US Education Department, or whether they will succumb to that which hurts their students.

Teachers must decide…do they stay or do they go? Either way they choose, teachers usually feel guilty.

There are some who say that teachers who recognize the draconian classroom goals and objectives and their professional emasculation, should all quit. They should announce to the world that they hate high-stakes testing, or Common Core, Competency-Based Education (CBE), or an innumerable array of insidious reforms, and then they should proudly stake their career on their beliefs and walk out the door.

Some do this, and then they go fight like hell for the rights of teachers and students.

Some teachers of like mind, ban together and put up a fight, like the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School who boycotted testing.

Some teachers cry for awhile, then they turn away. They believe the only thing they can do is work on something else that will bring joy and happiness. They focus on their corner of the world, where they feel they have some control.

Who’s the best kind of teacher? That is not for me to judge, although I wonder about teachers who buy into every school reform that comes their way.

Every teacher must make up their own mind what their career means to them and how to best serve the children in their care. And there are always a whole lot of deeply personal outside factors that enter into the decision.

“FAILING” SCHOOLS?

Grading the schools

Are America’s public schools failing? The latest PDK poll once again reports that people who have children in public schools give their schools a good rating. Approximately two-thirds of public school parents rate their local schools as an A or B. When you add a grade of C, the number increases to 90%. Nationally, schools are rated much lower. Why? Could it be that the media, politicians, pundits, and “reformers” are promoting the myth of America’s “failing public schools?” What do local parents know that the general public doesn’t?

Failing schools or inaccurate reporting?

Stephen Krashen provides an answer to the questions above…

The explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been reporting more academic failure than actually exists.

LOCAL CONTROL

A Simple Solution to Fix the Problem of our Failing Public Education System

No two public schools are alike…

A simple solution infers that a single strategy, or group of strategies, will be sufficient to address problems across a wide variety of settings–in this case, our public schools. As anyone who has ever spent a day teaching in a public school knows, no two public schools are alike, so the notion that any one idea or approach holds the answer to wide-spread, systemic change in an ecosystem as large and diverse as America’s public school system is either naive or disingenuous. And neither of those traits is a good thing when it comes to making suggestions about our nation’s education policy.

MONEY DOES NOT MEAN EXPERTISE

Mr. Gates Chats with Mr. Bowling

Bill Gates can’t understand that he’s not an education expert simply because he’s rich. Nate Bowling does his best to explain things.

At the beginning of 2016, Bowling wrote a widely-circulated piece entitled “The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having” in which he comes down hard on the idea of setting aside questions of education policy until we can honestly grapple with the issues of race and poverty, charging that the powers that be and the folks in the ‘burbs are actually pretty happy with The Way Things Are.

…if the wealthy and super-wealthy had skin in the game, public schools would get the support they need.

###
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.

###
Posted in A-F Grading, Charters, Choice, Equity, Privatization, Public Ed, Quotes, REPA, SchoolFunding, Testing, Value-Added, WhyTeachersQuit

Random Quotes – June 2016

THIS DOESN’T WORK…

Johnson Academy receives charter renewal

Hypocrisy at work.

The constant barrage of disdain against public schools by the legislature and the governor has led to an increase in the investment in privatization and the contrasting defunding of public education. “Public schools are ‘failing'” the refrain goes, “so we need to divert tax money from the public schools to vouchers and charters.”

Then we read something like this…

from The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

Education One, a public charter school-authorizing entity based at Trine University, granted the Timothy L. Johnson Academy a two-year charter renewal.

The academy on Werling Drive in Fort Wayne now has a two-year charter effective June 30 through June 30, 2018.

The school was rated an “F” school in the A-F state accountability rating system for 2014. The two previous years, the school received a “D.”

The school, founded in 2002, lost its charter with Ball State University in 2013.

THIS DOESN’T EITHER…

Unqualified, Uncertified Teachers: Where is the Outrage?

How “reformers” have worked to destroy the teaching profession – Indiana version.

Problem: Career professional teachers, supported by professional teachers unions, demand higher wages and benefits. This stands in the way of privatization in two ways; 1) higher personnel costs results in lower corporate profits, and 2) education professionals support increased resources for their students thereby further reducing profits.

Answer: Destroy the teaching profession (and public schools along with it) through the following steps:

1. Claim that public schools are “failing” and blame it on “bad teachers.”

2. Evaluate teachers using test scores and restrict salary increases for teachers whose students score high. This reinforces the “bad teachers” myth and allows the destruction of the salary structure for all teachers. [Odd how “bad teachers” seem to congregate in schools with high levels of poverty. Oh, and deny that poverty is relevant to achievement.]

3. Threaten the livelihoods of teachers who work with hard-to-educate students, ESL students, students who live in poverty, and students with special needs, through punishments for teaching students with low test scores.

3. Attack and threaten teacher training institutions for turning out all those “bad teachers.”

4. Divert funding from public education to vouchers and charter schools providing less funding for “failing” schools. Budgets are cut. Class sizes rise. Test scores suffer. Continue to blame “bad teachers.”

5. Deny that experience matters. End seniority, salary schedules, and incentives for increased education or advanced degrees.

6. Once all these are in place and a teacher shortage develops, lower qualifications for teaching through state board of education policies.

7. Ignore all research about poverty and achievement, the effectiveness of experienced teachers, and the importance of investment in public education.

Success: Using non-professional, non-career teachers, with higher turnover rates, results in lower personnel costs and higher profits.

from Russ Walsh

I would like to see the business model of any successful company that says, “Let’s forget trying to make the job more attractive to top candidates, we can just hire someone who is unqualified for the job.”

NOR DOES THIS…

The Disconnect Between Changing Test Scores and Changing Later Life Outcomes Strikes Again

A child is more than a test score.

from Jay Greene

If we think we can know which schools of choice are good and ought to be expanded and which are bad and ought to be closed based primarily on annual test score gains, we are sadly mistaken.

WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING

Report Demonstrates that Greater Investment, Well Distributed, Raises School Achievement

Mind the Gap: 20 Years of Progress and Retrenchment in School Funding, Staffing Resources, and Achievement Gaps

Instead of diverting funds away from public education we ought to be investing in our local public schools.

from Jan Resseger

“(A)cross states, over the past decade and a half in particular, states with lower pupil-to-teacher ratios and fairer distribution of staffing tend to have both higher outcomes among children from low-income families and smaller (economic) achievement gaps…. We also have evidence that states in which teacher wages are more competitive have smaller achievement gaps and higher scores for children from lower income families.”

Her conclusion…

…you get what you pay for, and if you want to close achievement gaps between poor children and their privileged peers, you should spend what you need to to ensure that the children living in the poorest communities get the added attention they need from highly qualified teachers.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Across the Nation, Education is Getting Short Shrift

Tax dollars earmarked for public education are being diverted to privatization schemes such as vouchers and charters. Americans, through their legislators, bought and paid for by corporate donors, are neglecting their future.

From Jeff Bryant at The Progressive

You can place blame for the country’s education funding crisis squarely at the feet of state lawmakers and policy leaders who simply refuse to fund schools.

STUDENT DREAMS

Second graders imagine their dream school. It isn’t what you might think.

What would you have wished for when you were in second grade?

Second graders at a Boston elementary school said they wish for a school with

  • “…pencils, markers, and glue sticks…”
  • “…a shiny and new school…”
  • “…a room with soft things and people to talk to…”
  • “…a better playground…”
  • “…a class pet and field trips to far-away places…”
  • “…a whole library…”

What kind of school do your kids deserve?

from Lily Holland via Valerie Strauss

I think I’ve changed my mind. When I introduced this activity, I originally said I dreamed of a school with an outdoor garden that my students and I could use to grow healthy food. Now I think I dream of a school where 7-year-olds don’t have to just dream about the schools they deserve.

WHY TEACHERS LEAVE

Teaching, GOP lose frustrated Hoosier

Professional, career teachers are leaving education. The loss will be felt in years to come when our leaders only come from the elites who could afford quality education and our voting population consists of adults whose education was damaged by greed and shortsightedness.

From Brenda Yoder in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

Establishment Republicans don’t seem to care about these students or others who need caring teachers more than they need six weeks of ISTEP+. They don’t care about the rural communities where schools are fighting just to stay alive. They don’t care about excellent teachers who do their best for the students they love.

They care about the money they can get from ALEC, Pearson and from being elected by the “voucher” bandwagon. Seriously, vouchers aren’t the issue anymore. Integrity, real needs, and change are.

CHOICE HAS BRED CHAOS

We Can Recover From The School Choice Movement

The “choice” in education has always been available for those who were wealthy. “Choice” now means that privatized schools can choose their students. Parents who are confused and without a well-staffed, well funded neighborhood school to rely on, are left to struggle with the system.

from Ed Berger, Ed.D

“Choice” is a marketplace idea wrongly applied to education. The assumption that most parents have the information they need to make intelligent decisions about the education their children need, and the education children need to be effective citizens, has been proven wrong. School choice has failed to improve our schools. In fact, choice has created a chaos of confusion for parents who have risked (gambled) on moving their children out of comprehensive education programs to place them in partial education programs. The costs of these misguided experiments is evident in high dropout rates, incomplete educations, and damaged children.

###
Posted in Article Medleys, Early Childhood, reading, retention, Segregation, Testing, WhyTeachersQuit

2016 Medley #16

Elections, Why Teachers Quit, Reading in Kindergarten, Third Grade Punishment, Segregation

ELECTION

Now that it’s Clinton v Trump, where do they stand on education?

If you haven’t yet decided who to vote for based on foreign policy experience, likely supreme court nominees, or something else, here are some samples of the education policies of the two major party candidates for POTUS…

[Full disclosure: I’m not a Democrat. I think that the education policies of the Obama administration under the disastrous direction of Arne Duncan has damaged public education as much, if not more, than the policies of George W. Bush. While Hillary Clinton says some of the right things I have no reason to believe that she will be a better “education president” than Presidents Bush (II) or Obama. On the other hand, I won’t vote for Trump, a bigoted demagogue who won’t denounce the white supremacists, racists, and anti-semites who support him. I’ll vote for Clinton if the polls show that she can win Indiana. If not, I’ll vote for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party]

OVER-TESTING

Clinton: “We should be ruthless in looking at tests and eliminating them if they do not actually help us move our kids forward.” International Business Times, 10/24/15
Trump: No position.

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Clinton: Too many charter schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody.” The Washington Post, 11/08/15
Trump: “We’ve got to bring on the competition — open the schoolhouse doors and let parents choose the best school for their children. Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships.” “The America We Deserve,” by Donald Trump, 07/02/00

RESPECT FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, EDUCATORS

Clinton: “I will ensure that teachers always have a seat at the table in making decisions that impact their work.” U.S. News & World Report, 10/03/15
Trump: “Schools are crime-ridden and they don’t teach.” “The America We Deserve,” by Donald Trump, 07/02/00

ANOTHER TEACHER REFUSES TO HURT CHILDREN

A Teacher Retires After 25 Years, Dismayed At How His Profession Has Changed

How long will we continue the test and punish, racial and economically segregating, anti-child, education policies of “reformers?” This is why there is a teacher shortage. This is why veteran teachers leave the profession instead of continuing to hurt the children they are supposed to teach. This is why we need to replace the state legislators and governors who get their kick-backs from testing companies and privatizers.

Why would Rick Young, a 58-year-old teacher who imagined he’d teach until the end of his working career, leave something he’s so obviously passionate about?

“It’s become a lot harder to teach and especially to teach in a way that I personally think is meaningful for my students,” he said.

Young is talking about a national trend in teaching to more clearly document and measure what’s taught, meant to keep teachers accountable, along with a new standards. That led to a shift for teachers toward standardizing lesson planning.

He said this means filling out what is, to his mind, endless paperwork as he now must plan his lessons in a more systematic and precise way.

KINDERGARTEN SHOULD NOT BE THE NEW FIRST GRADE

Winning the battle but losing the war? Behind the science of early reading instruction.

There is lots of evidence that reading books to young children, even to little babies, helps children to develop their language skills. Books offer exposure to a wide variety of words, provide children with valuable knowledge about the world, and provide a treasured sharing opportunity for parents and children. However, the transition to independent reading is one that deserves careful consideration. As noted by Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige in her essay, “Defending the Early Years”, most kindergartners are not developmentally ready to learn to read. This is not to say they should be kept away from letters and sounds. Champions for play-based pre-school education have articulated a wide variety of ways in which play-based curricula can skillfully weave in letters, sounds and books without formal teaching or formal assessments. Feeding a curiosity for sounds, letters, and books in a way that truly excites and engages the child can nurture later reading. An early introduction to books is a very good thing for young children. However, an early expectation that a child will learn to read independently may actually backfire.

PUNISHING THIRD GRADERS – AGAIN

Retention doesn’t work. The research is clear. At its very best, retention doesn’t help students beyond the first one or two years.  Intense, early intervention works, but costs money. Americans, many educators included, would rather ignore the research than spend the money and effort to help students. Privatizers glory in the “learn or be punished” scenario which allows them to blame public schools and public school teachers for “failing.”

Here are some links to actual research in grade retention, including some links within the links.

While retention policies are receiving a lot of attention due to a push to improve 3rd-grade reading, early identification and intervention are more likely to improve student performance.

Indiana uses a reading test, IREAD-3, to prevent students from being promoted from third grade to fourth. The rationale is that they need a year to catch up. Research into retention has shown time and again that students who are behind in third grade don’t catch up through retention, and in fact, fall even further behind. The money for IREAD-3 would be better spent on early intervention (see here, and here, and you might as well check this out, too).

Another reason we strongly oppose this policy is that the consensus among researchers and experts is overwhelming that retaining students, no matter what their actual level of achievement, is likely to damage rather than help their educational prospects.

Models suggest that early primary grade retention scars the educational career mainly at high school completion, though there are important, unconditional effects on college entry and completion as a result.

Read-By-Third Grade Begins the Destruction of Young Children in Nevada

A dozen and a half states force schools to retain third graders who don’t “pass the test” including Indiana…and now Nevada.

A century of education research proving retention does NOT work should be enough.

Simply: Whole group learning did not work the first time so the remedy should not be another year of whole group learning. Repetition of a grade level, without a significant change in the method of instruction does not work. Real remedies would include smaller class-size, differentiated instruction, language learning scaffolding if necessary, or individualized support like tutoring in small groups. The worst possible remedy is blanket retention for large masses of at-risk studennts.

SEGREGATION

The children of children who went to desegregated schools reap benefits, too, study finds

In 1954 the US Supreme Court decided that separate but equal schools were inherently unequal and were unconstitutional. But in 2007, the Roberts Court sidestepped Brown which set the stage for today’s resegregation of America’s public schools. For a short time after Brown, the Federal Department of Education took steps to make sure that schools were desegregated.

Did desegregation work? Studies showed that black students benefited from desegregation. A new report shows that the benefits continued to the next generation as well.

Previous studies have also found large benefits to black students after desegregation. But Johnson also tracked the offspring of these desegregated students — the next generation, born after 1980. And Johnson found that the more years of desegregated schooling their parents had experienced, the better outcomes these kids had. Specifically, these children had higher math and reading test scores, were less likely to repeat a grade, were more likely to graduate from high school, go to college and attend a higher quality college.

Tomorrow’s Test

Our students are a diverse group of humans…education needs to adjust.

Our schools face two central challenges as they diversify. First, how do we train and retain educators to relate to students from a broad range of racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and linguistic backgrounds? More than 50 percent of public school students are now low-income. One out of 5 speaks a language other than English at home. And nearly one quarter are foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent. Meanwhile, about 80 percent of America’s public school teachers are white—down from 86 percent 20 years ago—and more than three-quarters are female.

As public school students diversify, qualities such as empathy, self-awareness, open-mindedness, and understanding are more important than ever in our teachers—just as they will be for all of us in an increasingly diverse society. Teachers will need to have the capacity to serve not just as instructors but also as cultural brokers and social leaders, aware of their own biases, empathetic when confronting difference, comfortable with change.

The Charter School Swindle – Selling Segregation to Blacks and Latinos

Why do we continue to throw away taxpayers’ money on charter schools which can leave whenever they decide it’s no longer profitable? It’s time to invest in real public schools. Fix the schools we have, don’t throw them away!

…charter schools DO increase segregation. They DO suspend children of color at higher rates than traditional public schools. And they DO achieve academic outcomes for their students that are generally either comparable to traditional public schools or – in many cases – much worse.

Segregation — Racial, Ethnic, and Economic — Dominates Nation’s Schools

According to the Civil Rights Project’s researchers, the most racially segregated states today are New York, California, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and New Jersey. They add: “The relative decline in the ranking of Michigan, which was often up with Illinois and New York as most segregated, probably relates to the drastic shrinkage of the Detroit Public Schools and suburbanization of black families in that metropolitan area.”

Today, the nation’s most populous and urban northern states post the highest rates of black-white school segregation, while the Brown decision was quite successful in integrating the schools across the South. Why is that? “Because of the dramatic changes in southern segregation produced by the enforcement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, none of the 17 states that completely segregated schools by law (e.g., the type of mandatory segregation that was the focus of the Brown decision) have headed this list since 1970…. The ironic historic reality is that the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court supported very demanding desegregation standards for the South while the interpretation of Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation limited the impact of Brown in the North and West. This was a massive oversight since segregation in those regions resulted from residential segregation, itself a result of a myriad of governmental policies and private decisions like segregative school and teacher assignments by school boards, discriminatory housing policies and other local and state policies.”

###
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

###
Posted in Curmudgucation, WhyTeachersQuit

Tomorrow’s Teachers?

WHO WILL STAFF TOMORROW’S CLASSROOMS?

A Not Quitting Letter

Earlier this month blogger Peter Greene struck back against the increasingly frequent “teacher quits via internet post” genre. He wrote a “not quitting” letter to an imaginary school board.

So I will stay here, and I will do what I consider– in my professional opinion– to do what is best for my students and my community. When I am told to implement a bad policy, I will circumvent it by any means at my disposal. I will disregard directives to commit malpractice. I will question, I will challenge, and I will push back. I will speak at every board meeting. I will talk to every parent.

Unfortunately, not everyone can do that. To his credit, he did acknowledge that not everyone is in position to do what he suggested. In the school I volunteer at, for example, anyone who did what he said would get fired due to insubordination.

Yes, I know. Not everyone is in the position to be this feisty and confrontational, and not every situation lends itself to this approach. I’m not advocating this for every single teacher up against it. And yes– lots of teachers have adopted this “stay and fight” stance– they just haven’t written a letter announcing it.

As I said, I am not unsympathetic to those who quit. You can only take as much as you can take.

I get it. Teachers who are strong will stay in the classroom…until they can’t. Some teachers will leave because they can’t handle the cognitive dissonance of the education malpractice they are forced to dump on their students…and would rather quit than be fired (because, while it’s always been possible to fire teachers, it’s even easier now).

Some teachers will do what Greene has said…they’ll fight back, subvert the malpractice process, and stand up to the “reformers.” Some might even be able to do that without getting fired.

Some teachers will stay and do what they’re told because they believe they can overcome the educational malpractice forced upon them by “excellent teaching.” Those are also the teachers who Greene is speaking of…those teachers who can deal with all the paperwork and all the wasted time in test prep and testing, and still make sure that their students are active learners…and still make sure that their students are evaluated in ways which reflect their real learning, rather than on the basis of an annual BS test (Greene’s way of referring to the “Big Standardized test”).

Some teachers will stay in the classroom, do what they’re told, and participate in the educational malpractice because they don’t know what else to do. They’ll do what they’re told when it’s time to beat test prep into their students’ heads. They’ll do what they’re told when they’re told to limit the curriculum to “tested content.” They’ll ignore or repress the feelings of cognitive dissonance because they don’t know how to combat them.

Some teachers – as witnessed by the numbers of people leaving the profession (and the lack of numbers entering it) – will leave.

A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

How can you defend what you’re doing to your students if you don’t believe it’s in their best interest? How can you subject them to the educational malpractice of ‘reform’ and tell them that you know it’s not good for them, but you have to do it anyway? Someone else will do the same thing to them if you quit…someone who might not understand them as well as you do. When do you tell them that enough if enough and you can’t be the one to do this to them any more?

You do it when you decide that you have to take care of yourself, too.

If you think it’s easy to quit when you care about your students, read this. Staying, fighting, and risking getting fired takes courage…but sometimes so does walking away.

So, I quit. I’m not going to be the messenger that tells my students that they have to take another test. I am not going to spend another class period telling them I cannot help them get through a test they don’t understand.

Why today’s college students don’t want to be teachers

All but the most partisan (pro-“reform”) among us recognize that there is a looming, if not current, teacher shortage in Indiana and the U.S. Why are today’s college students choosing other ways to “give back” to the community?

The word is out. Not only do teachers have a difficult job, but they are disrespected, scolded, insulted, and derided.

Calling today’s undergraduates privileged or spoiled is similarly reductionistic. Certainly, economic diversity remains a persistent problem in American higher education. But one can find numerous examples of students who, despite growing up in poverty and navigating tragically under-resourced schools, persevere to become the first in their family to attend college. These remarkable individuals are among the most likely to pursue careers in social work, community organizing, or public health with plans to return home and give back to their communities.

But they do not want to become teachers.

This is more than just an unfortunate trend. When our brightest young college graduates, especially those who reflect the increasing diversity found in our public schools, eschew teaching we need to ask why.

The atmosphere surrounding teachers and public education has been toxic…and no amount of denial by politicians saying, “We love our teachers” will change that.

University of California-Davis Education Dean Harold Levine went further, urging leaders to do more “by creating an environment free of teacher bashing and the politicization of our jobs.”

Teachers are losing the freedom to actually impact students’ lives due to restrictions and high-stakes tests. Teachers are also losing job benefits and rights such as collective bargaining, seniority, and economic stability. This is enough to direct college students’ attention to other careers.

But finding candidates to fill this role, especially good candidates, may be more difficult than policymakers are willing to admit. Despite their clear interest in public service, the students I meet betray little enthusiasm for teaching as it now exists. And I see even less indication that major trends in public education—standardization, the proliferation of testing, the elimination of tenure and seniority, and expansion of school choice—have made teaching any more attractive as a career option. Prospective teachers, much like the young educators already working in schools, are especially skeptical of accountability measures that tie a teacher’s job security or pay grade to student test scores. And many are bothered by the way teachers are blamed for much broader social problems.

We must despise our kids: Our ugly war on teachers must end now: Republicans and Democrats can agree on one thing: Demonizing teachers. It’s the “reformers” doing the most harm

The demonizing of teachers and teachers unions is a bipartisan effort (until, of course, one needs a political endorsement). Democrats and Republicans alike have fallen into the trap of accountability – as if teachers and schools should be held accountable for the failure of America to deal with its deplorable child poverty rate.

Instead of fixing social problems, improving schools, and providing support services, politicians take no responsibility for the problems in high poverty areas. Like the irresponsible parent who doesn’t think they have to do anything to support their child’s learning, politicians, pundits, and policy makers call out the schools when hungry or traumatized children have difficulty learning. They incorrectly label schools as “failing” when they, themselves, fail to do their jobs. They blame teachers and schools for not solving the problems of poverty and violence in our cities, towns, and rural areas. Accountability isn’t for legislators, governors, or mayors.

Democrats and Republicans alike have sold out the public schools to “choice” and allowed the “choosers” to suck up tax money previously reserved for neighborhood schools. Parents don’t get to choose. Charter schools get to choose. Private schools – using tax money to repair church steeples or add on extra classrooms for religious instruction – get to choose. If you have a high needs child you get to “choose” the now underfunded public schools because there are no other options.

Democrats and Republicans alike have allowed themselves to be bought by lobbyists working for for-profit or religious schools. The constituency is not longer the voting public, but the hedge fund managers, the “reform” think tank, or the CMO.

The attack on public education continues. Why are we surprised when fewer young people want to opt for a career in the classroom?

Obviously the main culprit of this tremendous and damaging shortfall in student learning is austerity budgeting around the country. Most funding for public schools comes from the states, and they have not rebounded to pre-recession funding levels, nor have they made education enough of a priority to keep up. Though teaching children is routinely stated as our nation’s most important priority in political campaigns, we treat it in the exact opposite manner in budget documents.

But there’s a bigger point to be made here, first brought up by blogger Duncan Black, aka Atrios. Speaking of teachers, Atrios wrote, “who could have predicted that demonizing them, cutting salaries and benefits, and reducing job security might make it a slightly less attractive option for people.”

The amazing thing is just how bipartisan this campaign to denigrate the American teacher has been… [emphasis added]

STILL HOPE

‘Some of the best people I know’

And yet there’s still hope. A young teacher, still untouched by cynicism, writes about her fellow teachers. Can people like this writer hold on long enough to give us a chance to turn things around? Can she and her colleagues overburdened with ever larger class sizes and ever more tests remain in the classroom long enough to see a return to America’s promise of good public schools for every child in every neighborhood?

My first-year teaching experience boils down to this: No matter how rough my day is, nothing has made me regret the decision to teach. Every day I watch my students grow – not just as learners, but as people. Teaching can easily become all-consuming. While I may not have the free time I did when I worked 9 to 5, I still meet up with friends, I still run road races, I still read for pleasure. I haven’t lost myself completely. I feel free and fulfilled.

There are plenty of challenges in the field of education. Have those challenges caused a teacher shortage? It seems so. These challenges, however, aren’t a death toll; they are a call to action.

Teaching is for the brave, the caring, the quick-witted and the thick-skinned. If that doesn’t sound like you, then stay away. As for the rest of you, we have some openings.

~~~

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.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.

~~~
~~~

~~~