Archives for category: Support for public schools

Anthony Cody here describes teachers as “reluctant warriors,” as men and women who chose a profession because they wanted to teach, not to engage in political battles over their basic rights as professionals.

 

The profession is under attack, as everyone now knows. Pensions are under attack. The right to due process is under attack. The policymakers want inexperienced, inexpensive teachers who won’t talk back, who won’t collect a pension, who will turn over rapidly:

 

In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator’s whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.

But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

No need for teachers to think for themselves, to design unique challenges to engage their students. The educational devices will be the new source of innovation. The tests will measure which devices work best, and the market will make sure they improve every year. Teachers are guides on the side, making sure the children and devices are plugged in properly to their sockets.

 

First, the privatizers came for the schools of the poor, because their parents and communities were powerless and were easy marks for privatization. Then they came for the union and the teachers:

 

Schools of the poor were the first targets. It was easy to stigmatize schools attended by African Americans and Latinos, by English learners and the children of the disempowered. Use test scores to label them failures, dropout factories, close them down, turn them over to privatizers. But this was just the beginning. And now, as Arne Duncan made clear with his dismissal of “white suburban moms,” they want all the schools, and are prepared to use poor performance on the Common Core tests to fuel the “schools are failing” narrative.

 

Teacher unions are under ruthless attack by billionaires, who conveniently own the media, and provide the very “facts” to guide public discourse. Due process is maligned and destroyed under the guise of “increasing professionalism.” Democratic control of local schools is undermined by mayoral control and the expansion of privately managed charter schools.

 

Congress and state legislatures have been purchased wholesale through bribes legalized by the Supreme Court, which has given superhuman power to corporate “citizens.”

 

Teachers, by our nature cooperators respectful of authority, are slow to react. Can the destruction of public education truly be anyone’s goal? The people responsible for this erosion rarely state their intentions. With smiles and praise for teachers, they remove our autonomy and make our jobs depend on test scores. With calls for choice and civil rights, they re-segregate our schools, and institute zero-tolerance discipline policies in their no-excuses charter schools. They push for larger classes in public schools but send their own children to schools with no more than 16 students in a room. Corporate philanthropies anoint teacher “leaders” who are willing to echo reform themes – sometimes even endorsed by our national teacher unions.

 

Now, he says, as the truth gets out about the privatization movement and its bipartisan support, teachers are starting to fight back. They are joining the BATs, they are joining the Network for Public Education, they are speaking out, they are (as in Seattle) refusing to give the tests, they are organizing (as in New York City) to protest the low quality of the tests.

 

Join in the fight against high-stakes testing, which is a central element in the privatization movement. They use the data to target teachers, principals, and public schools. They use the data to destroy public education. Don’t cooperate. Join the reluctant warriors. One person alone will be hammered. Do it with your colleagues, stand together, and be strong.

 

 

 

 

You have to see this film: “Rise Above the Mark.”

It was produced and written by educators and friends of public education in West Lafayette, Indiana.

It is professional, compelling, and honest about the challenges facing children, schools and teachers today.

The team interviewed Pasi Sahlberg, Linda Darling-Hammond, Marc Tucker, me, and others. But more importantly, the film interviews teachers, students, parents, and principals. It shows how today’s policies are crushing teachers and driving them out of teaching.

I saw the movie at a public showing at Butler University in Indianapolis. It is powerful.

You can go to riseabovethemark.com and find out how you can sign up for a copy of the film and show it at your school and to your community.

See it.

You will be glad you did.

An insider at the NYC Department of Education defends Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio’s plan to support schools instead of closing them.

For nearly the past dozen years, Mayor Bloomberg has followed an agenda of closing schools and opening schools.

This insider, anonymous for obvious reasons, says de Blasio is right:

“The New York Post has already begun its propaganda campaign against Mayor-elect de Blasio’s plans to improve New York City’s schools. An honest assessment of the data demonstrates that under Mike Bloomberg’s 12 years of leadership student outcomes in New York City remained flat. Of course, the DOE has run an intense PR campaign designed to conceal this fact, but the data are clear. The NY Post wants those failed policies to continue. De Blasio has promised a new approach.

Today’s NY Post has an article claiming that PS 114, a “school de Blasio saved is back on the fail list.” The NY Post regrets that while under Bloomberg’s policies the school “would normally face the threat of closing” under de Blasio the school will now be supported on a path to improvement. Which approach makes sense?

Let’s begin with the evidence used to claim the school is failing. The solitary data point mentioned by the NY Post is the report card grade of “C” the school received this week. 85% of this grade is based on test scores. The report cards compare student performance across years in a manner the tests were not designed to do. The reports cards also do not account for the statistical noise in test results, meaning that schools whose test scores are statistically indistinguishable nonetheless receive very different grades. The very premise the report card grade is based on is false.

PS 114 has a “peer index” in the lowest 4% of all city schools. Peer indexes are supposed to compare only similar schools to each other, as everyone agrees it would be unfair to compare schools that work with disadvantaged and struggling students to schools that work with only selected students. But the data show that the report cards fail to make fair comparisons. Schools with lower peer indexes receive lower average grades. Schools that receive “F” grades have a peer index 24% lower on average than schools that receive “A” grades. Peer indexes lump together very dissimilar schools and peer indexes do not really control for incoming student characteristics. The grades are bogus and penalize schools that work with disadvantaged students.

Test scores are a very narrow part of what makes a great school. Other data show that this school has many strengths. The students who graduate PS 114 are more successful than the average in passing core courses in middle school. A review of the school by educational experts conducted less than a year ago noted that:

the school’s focus on citywide instructional expectations is evident in literacy, math, teacher effectiveness, and parental involvement action plans…This purposeful drive toward improvement leads to relevant modifications that elevate learning for all students such as embedding specific literacy skills in instructional tasks and prolonged units of study to build confidence and capacity for overcoming the challenge of solving complex math problems… The entire school community contributes to the direction of the school and supports the principal’s vision for improved student outcomes…Parents interviewed expressed knowledge of the school’s annual goals and espouse, “The school is empowering”. Hence, parents state that they work alongside teachers as dedicated volunteers and help set policy for school improvement… The school engages parents in a variety of activities and informational meetings therefore, parents have a good understanding of school-level data and are highly informed as to their role in supporting the academic as well as social-emotional well-being of their children. Ongoing dialogue and established partnerships among stakeholders center on student learning and individual success. Concerted efforts to engage parents in the educational process lead to parents viewing themselves as important partners in the progress of the school as such they perpetuate high academic and social-emotional learning expectations for their children.

Despite attempts by the New York Post and the DOE to obfuscate reality, it is evident that the letter grade is a poor measure of school success. Thankfully, Mr. de Balsio has said he will stop the practice of assigning meaningless letter grades to schools and would create a “war room” of experienced educators to work collaboratively with schools on improvements. Happily for the student and parents of PS 114, there is a bright future for the school community.

We now have the opportunity to discard failed policies and to implement better ones, ones that will help schools improve. How should we go about doing this?

We must do a better job of sharing information about school with parents and students. Stop giving schools meaningless letter grades and made-up report cards. Share a broad array of information about schools transparently and clearly. This should include, in addition to how students do on tests as compared to similarly situated students, such information as arts offerings, clubs, years of teacher experience, suspension rates, % of students leaving the school prior to natural transition point, and videos of classes for parents and students to view. Develop a website and apps that allow parents and students to weigh this information at the level of priority important to them. Websites like this already exist, such as this one that allows the user to rank graduate programs based on individual priorities. Publish test score data using ranges to account for levels of statistical significance and include multiple years of data to account for meaningless year-to-year fluctuations. Create a system so that parents and students can write reviews of schools and publish that information on the website after a peer vetting and review process.

We must do a better job of analyzing school data and working to improve New York City schools. Instead of using data for political and ideological ends let’s start using data, only the statistically significant and meaningful data that is, to support and improve schools.

Analyze the data to see if some schools have large gaps between course pass rates and Regents exam performance (including students who took a course but did not sit for the Regents exam).

Support such schools in clarifying grading practices. Analyze the data to see if some schools have large gaps between graduation rate and student persistence in college.

Support such schools in increasing the rigor of their academics and in building life-skills of students. Analyze the data to see if some schools lose, perhaps as a deliberate strategy to make their numbers look good, a large proportion of their students from each cohort.

Support such schools in working with the every student who enters their doors and in lowering their attrition rate. Provide every school community with a data narrative identifying the long-term, multi-year trends and support each school in working to shift practices if necessary.

Analyze the data on student characteristics to ensure that each school has a student body representative of the diversity of New York City. The Office of Student Enrollment should be held accountable for preventing the clustering of specific sorts of students in specific schools.

Provide schools with continuous feedback on how they are doing throughout the course of the year. Do not grade schools with a single letter, months after the school year ends. No teacher would ever use such a grading practice in the classroom. Use data in positive ways to identify specific teachers and departments that have outstanding results year after year. Use technology platforms to have those teachers and departments share their practices and lessons across the city. Advocate with the State Department of Education to allow students flexible options, in addition to standardized exams, to meet graduation requirements. This should include portfolios, demonstrations, and presentations. Let’s leave behind the zero-sum competitive game that has characterized the last dozen years in the DOE. We need to leverage the outstanding professionals and phenomenal practices that exist in every school in the city to collaboratively provide every student with a great education.

A coalition of Los Angeles parents, teachers and public school advocates are reaching out to others in LA.  They report that;

The LAUSD school board will consider a resolution for “Educational Equity and Achievement for all Title I Students” next Tuesday, November 12 at 4pm. This resolution seeks to restore Title I funding to children attending schools at the former 40% poverty threshold. Fully funding entitled schools at the historical threshold can be achieved from carryover monies alone; not a single dime need be diverted from the coffers of any current Title I school.

YOU can help restore these funds by signing this petition, alerting school board members and staff to your endorsement of this imperative. The school board needs to hear from the community: please sign the petition right now!! Every single member of our diverse, deserving local public school district will benefit from your willingness to speak out. Thank you.

There is another way to help if you live or work near downtown Los Angeles. Please turn out at 333 S Beaudry Avenue (90017), before 4pm on Tuesday, November 12, 2013. Express your support for funding entitled schools at the former 40% poverty threshold; express your support for our Title I learners! If ever there was a population that deserves full, efficient utilization of federal resources, it is this one. Please help us restore entitled funds to our children who most need it.

You can also reach the petition via the following link:  https://www.change.org/petitions/lausd-board-members-stop-taking-money-away-from-our-kids-please-vote-for-educational-equity-and-achievement-for-all-title-i-students-resolution-on-11-12-13

If you know of others in LA, please pass along this important message

A reader explains why public schools matter to the life of communities:

“Public schools are not panaceas for poverty or crime or any of the other ills of our society, but they can provide a place for a community to come together, to learn to get along with each other, to watch out for each other. They can create a sense of security and predictability for our children. Privatization of our schools destroys this sense of community. It takes ownership out of the hands of the community and renders parents powerless in the education of their own children. Those in power would do well to invest in schools that strengthen our communities.”

At the 2012 Democratic national convention, the governor of
Massachusetts raved about the success of a school called Olive
Gardens, where the 80% of the staff was fired, and many
inexperienced TFA were brought in. EduShyster points out that
the
Charlotte M. Murkland Elementary School is even more
successful, yet there were no shoutouts at the Convention, no trips
to the White House, no national press coverage. I wrote a post about
the Murkland school based on a story in the Lowell newspaper.
EduShyster has visited the school many times. In her post linked
here, she explains the ten ingredients that created a dramatic and
genuine success story. Here is ingredient number 10: “10. Speaking
of Time, this Miracle Didn’t Happen Overnight The Murkland’s
turnaround began in 2009 and the school has showed steady and
impressive growth each year since then. Which means that the
school’s success isn’t short term or illusory. And that may be the
very best part of this story.” Read her post to learn about the
other 9 crucial elements of sustained and sustainable
change.

A teacher in North Carolina left this comment:

NC has requested a waiver that even though we are now on the new evaluation system (which, interestingly, is continuously being reworked (Home Base) because Pearson is still getting kinks out—-possibly another one of those airplanes being built in the air)—anyway, the waiver would allow that even though the online evaluator system (which I assume factors in test scores) is up and running (sort of) that it not be used to make personnel decisions until 2016-2017.
It seems to be the era of mandates that are impossible, and then a series of waivers to get out of them. It seems like a parent making ridiculous parameters for children, but then constantly giving passes to work around them.
Most want to still blame everything on W. I cannot accept that. What is going on right now has nothing to do with W, directly speaking. There was an opportunity, I am assuming, to move away from NCLB and instead we are even deeper into that type of mandating and waivering (wavering).
Platitudes never seem viable. To me they just indicate posturing on the part of decision-makers.
While it may be wiser to vote for Democrats in NC in you are pro-public school, I am still waiting for Democrats to take ownership in some of the troubles we are seeing.

Add to that—while teachers can always improve, I will say that as an institution public school is far more sophisticated than any reformer would ever want to admit. I read over the stack of IEPs yesterday provided to me by the special ed teachers (because I am on the team of teachers who teach the children and therefore need to know about accommodations, modifications, behavior patterns etc) and I was thinking to myself that no matter what kind of undergraduate education a young graduate has had, a building full of inexperienced educators (such as a charter could be—not sure that they ever have been), could not possibly offer the services to special education students that a well-established public school can. The problem is right now there are ideas that want to treat everyone the same. And we are risking throwing out the baby with the bathwater in a big way. A big, expensive way. We gotta figure this out. And we can’t just blame it on W.

This teacher left a powerful comment about how he
became
educated about real life by teaching. The myths
he had learned in
his youth fell away when confronted
by the children whose lives are
burdened by poverty.
Please tweet this comment. It should go viral.
Add your
voice. This reader said in a comment: “People harass me
for talking about poverty all the time. I come from a middle
class,
white family, and I was sheltered away from the
poor and needy. I
attended a middle class and upper
class private school just south
of Detroit. “After
teaching in public schools since the late 90′s
(and
having never walked in one until I began to teach), I now the
see the world I was sheltered from. It is a world of poverty.
“I
agree that people should be responsible, but when
the game is
rigged, even responsible people falter in
finding work. Once the
jobs are gone, families suffer,
and this seemingly “responsible
behavior” becomes a
smoke and mirrors argument. “Public schools
essentially
saved me from the closed mindedness that comes from
this conservative mindset. I understand now what we need. We
need
strong public services (including education),
strong labor unions,
and a government not run by
corporations. “Shame on my family for
raising me to
believe I was something special, and everybody else
was
not because they were not willing to work as hard as I was.
What a crock.
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/07/18/1111575/-Two-Americas”

This reader responds to the findings
of the PDK/Gallup poll
, which showed a shift in public
opinion against testing, against using test scores to evaluate
teachers, and against public release of teacher personnel files and
ratings. “We said last year that we had a lot of hard work to do,
to inform and educate the parents we work with, to organize
communities and form effective coalitions of resistance…We said
it was going to be a herculean task. For the past year we each have
been busy doing just that. (I held a series of advocatcy workshps
for parents at my school, with my principal’s blessing) We have
been relentless promoting our cause in the media and on the
internet…constant unrelenting communicating and informing, always
learning. Knowledge is power. “Now we discover that since last
year, the percentages have shifted in favor of teachers, teacher
concerns and Public Education. I ask you, “Who said American public
educators are not effective teachers?” Just look at what we have
accomplished in a year! “We are AMAZING educators and incredible
motivators…Congratulations everyone (((cheers)))
(((applause)))… “Now we need to keep at it until every classroom
in our great nation is FREE of the corporate influence. Keep active
educating other teachers and supporting parents and encouraging
students to organize…the battle is shifting in our favor and it
is a battle, but the war is far from over. We can do
this!”

This petition was written by supporters of public education in New York State called the Coalition for Justice in Education.

They object to King’s insistence on high-stakes standardized testing, especially the Common Core testing that recently led to a collapse of student scores across the state.

They seek a commissioner who cares about public education, cares about the quality of education–not just test scores, and cares about children.

I agree, which is why I wrote a post calling on John King to resign.

He may have the confidence of the Board of Regents, but he has lost the confidence of the parents and educators of New York State.

If you agree with their petition, sign it.

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