This is a letter from a kindergarten teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada, to her state legislators. Nevada has the lowest graduation rate in the nation, lower even than the District of Columbia. As she explains in her post, the schools of Las Vegas are underfunded, and the needs of the children are huge. Please read and remember: Everything you need about school reform may be learned from a kindergarten teacher.
The session has begun and I’m worried. What worries me?
Money. People say money should not matter in education but it does. Money buys stuff and staff. Bottom line: Schools are an expenditure. You get what you pay for.
There is a public school funding unfairness in the state – the Nevada Plan. Frankly, Vegas money needs to stay in Vegas. Our children and public schools need the money. I don’t want to see other schools in Nevada starve, but it’s only fair that the tax dollars made with the labor in my community come back the the families and children in my community. We are last in funding in a state last in funding. And we pay everyone else’s bills?
85% of the total state revenue comes from Vegas. 75% of Nevada’s students and teachers live in Vegas. Only 50% of the general fund comes back to Vegas schools. There is something very unfair about this formula.
Isn’t a student in Vegas worth just as much as a student in Eureaka?
I’m worried about the scary reform movement. I have had 6 principals in 12 years, 6 reading programs, 3 math programs, taught 3 different grade levels, and taught at 3 different schools. Reform implies that teachers are not willing to change or are stuck in bad habits. Frankly, I have whiplash.
Screaming reform at 17,000+ teachers in Vegas who experience constant change is …. Ridiculous. Our community only has 50% of the teachers it had 5 years ago anyhow. In a profession with high turnover – in a community as transient as Vegas – who are you demanding reform from? The few that are left? Dumb and a waste of time.
We need security, retention, and better working conditions. Some consistency and balance would be nice. I would like to see some work to KEEP good teachers because we are driving them off.
25 years ago … During my undergraduate studies the professor who was teaching me about tests said this: Standardized tests are racially and culturally biased. Nothing has changed.
He also said: Be careful what you assess because it will drive your instruction. When we place such high pressure on standardized test scores – we are going to force everyone to teach to the test.
What if the test will not get students ready for life or academic success? A, B, C, D multiple choice questions are not measuring authentic life skills. We all know people who test well who lack skills in other areas.
Currently, I spend 75% of my instructional time testing or preparing for testing. My students are 5 years old and I only see them 2 hours a day. It’s too much. I’m not even teaching anymore.
I’m wondering why my community that is predominantly minority insists on testing our children with biased standardized assessments? Traditionally – these tests have been unfair to minority groups.
We are basing how our students are doing based SOLELY on this kind of assessment. There is no balance in this. Teachers will be evaluated ONLY on these scores and this is fair? We will turnaround our schools, develop charters, and sell more schools to Edison because of these biased scores?
States that have been using these standardized tests for years are now moving to OUTLAW their use at all. Standardized tests do not test higher level thinking skills. Real life skill is not measured by them. Innovation, invention, synthesis, analysis, and creativty are not measured by these types of tests.
There is no balance when you place so much pressure on one type of assessment.
Something is wrong when you can tell how many schools will be privatized by test scores -and you can also predict scores based on race.
Sadly race and poverty are brothers and sisters.
The research says: Household income is the leading indicator of how well students will do academically.
My students are poor. I have homeless students. I have a revolving door. Four students did not come back after winter break – they just disappeared. This is normal. My school has a 75% turnover. My school has a high ELL population. My school has 85% free and reduced lunch students.
Guess what? My school has NOT qualified for TITLE funds because there are so many other schools in the district that are at 95% to 100%. I guess my school is considered normal in Vegas.
Teachers are rowing the boat as fast as we can – but the boat has a hole!
While I’m busy tutoring, furthering my education, and working — the wolf has been in the hen house!
I’m calling out the wolf!
Charter school corporations do no better than public schools. They do not take the high needs students. They are not regulated like public schools. They are resegregating our population by race and interest – sometimes religious interest. Tax payer funds are being misused. Yep – misused. Charters are more expensive and with few exceptions no more effective than public schools. This charter experiment is failing across the nation. Nevada does not need to participate in this movement until it proves to be working someplace.
Using tax payer money to fund someone fancy smancy private school idea aka charter schools – is no good.
Now there is legislation to “empower” parents to pull the trigger and turn their neighborhood school into a charter? I can think of so many different ways to empower parents. Killing public schools is a horrible mistake.
Edison claimed it would make money and fix failing schools. It hasn’t. It won’t. Yet these corporate hybrids expand and continue to receive additional money. Someone is making money – not students or teachers. From my point of view, Edison is an investment scam. Joke on the tax payer.
Giving money to a corporation to run a school – is money that is not spent on kids.
Teach for America claims it will give our schools the best and brightest to teach at-risk for two or three years. TFA come untrained and are placed in the hardest areas and expected to know after 6 weeks of intense training what to do? What could go wrong? I guess this is why so few make it through the first year and it’s a very rare person who stays in the classroom for a career. Tourist teachers?
Inexperienced and untrained teachers – are not worth the three or four times the money it will take to hire through TFA.
Elaine Wynn spent A LOT of her own money and her friend’s money to obtain some board seats for TFA friendly board members. I would question – WHY?
The New Teacher Project is a Michelle Rhee non-profit. Michelle Rhee controlled her students with duct tape when she had her own classroom. Then she became an adminstrator who fired teachers on TV. Now she makes money telling governors how to unionbust and get rid of veteran teachers. Students First lurks around waiting for opportunities in Nevada. They invested heavily in campaigns – for extreme conservatives.
I’m not sure why people listen to this foul Rhee woman or any of her banter? She is cruel and making money. Not unlike Ann Coulter.
These privatizing vultures all have one thing in common – promises they can NOT keep because it’s quick fixes and not research based. And they are earning a lot of money. I’m not a fan of privatizing or spending money on someone or a corporation which is NOT effective.
To get at those education dollars — we need our schools and kids to appear to fail right?
Someone explain to me please why Nevada needs a High School Math Proficiency Test that is the third hardest in the nation?
We fund last in the nation – but expect our children to test at the highest levels? Then scream because a high number drop out or do not receive a diploma?
It’s a known fact that you can graduate just fine with a Nevada education – you just need to move to another state your senior year if you can NOT pass the math proficiency. We export our seniors?
We fail most of our kids and no one is questioning the RIGOR of the test? I’m questioning the actual validity of every measurement tool I’ve seen. The tests are — BAD tests.
I’ve challenged every school board member to take the math proficiency – and pass. No takers yet.
The “math” proficiency is actually a very technical reading test – word problems. Statistics, proabability, algebra, geometry – all couched in word problems.
Why would this be a problem? 60,000 language learners? Do you think the large number of kids who are not receiving a diploma are primarily second language students who fail the so-called “math” test which is actually a reading English test? It is not adminstered in Spanish.
Speaking of failing ….
My students fail on the first day of school. Yep. Kindergarten. My students are two to three years behind the nation on the first day of their public school experience. Before the public school teacher ever sees the child – they are behind the nation.
Kindergarten is not mandatory in Nevada. Vegas still has a large number of half day Kindergarten programs. We are supposed to compete with the rest of the nation that invests in early intervention and compete with parents who are placing their children in preschool at age two?
30% of Kindergarten students fail. And go to first grade. They are behind and stay behind. At-risk kids in half day programs, class sizes between 30 to 40, racing to catch-up to the nation who began 3 years ago.
We aren’t failing them in high school; Kids fail before the public schools even know their name.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS
60,000 identified ELL students. “Identified” because this depends on self identifying when parents enroll their child. For whatever reason, parents may or may not check the right box on the form.
I have a Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. Research shows it takes students 5 to 10 years to develop the academic language ability to be successful. We are not supporting students so it might even be longer.
Studies show that it would take $175 million to support our language learning students in Vegas properly. $50 million would be the bare minimum.
I’ll say it — $14 million? $10 million? I guess if your name is Sandoval you don’t want to be the only Governor with a significant number of ELL students and give them NOTHING.
Our kids have real needs that are not being met.
The reason the business model fails public schools is — mission statement.
Business is about making money – the mission statement is about the bottom line.
Public schools are about helping citizens – all people, the mission statement is about a literate democracy.
Public schools are always going to be an expenditure and investment.
When we try to use only data and scores from a biased measuring tool to evaluate our students and teachers like a business – we will get a privatizing business result.
My students are more than a test score. I am more than a collection of their test scores. My craft is an art more than a science. Hard to measure but still valuable. Learning will still take place in my classroom – even if I never give another test.
Teachers have very little power. All I have is e-mail. I have worked non-stop since the last legislative session to get to know as many legislators as I could and educate my community. I’m the alarm in my own frenzied way
I see too much willingness to sell our public schools instead of invest in them. We are giving money to snake oil salesmen instead of getting it to the classroom and kids. It’s wasting our precious limited funds.
I believe we are damaging our kids with excessive data collection and testing. We are failing everyone and I’m questioning this – WHY?
I’m worried about disadvantaged kids.
I’m worried about money. I don’t understand why I live in a state that is so rich in money and gold — and we can’t even fund our schools? What does this say about my state?
And I’m worried about Democrats. Yep. It was Democrats last session who did the damage. Why do Democrats follow the extreme right wing logic when it comes to public schools? Stand Up. We believe in a free public education for everyone. It’s worth protecting and fighting for.
We aren’t here to collect money for our next election by selling public schools down the river in a canoe with a hole and a frantic screaming kindergarten teacher!
Do what is right this time around.