Archives for category: Teacher Tenure

My Review of TIME’s Cover Story on Teacher Tenure

 

 

In the past four years, TIME and Newsweek have published three cover stories that were openly hostile to teachers.

 

On December 8, 2008, TIME published a cover story featuring a photograph of Michelle Rhee, dressed in black and holding a broom, with the implication that she had arrived to sweep out the Augean stables of American education. (Detractors thought she looked like a witch.) The title on the cover was “How to Fix America’s Schools,” suggesting that Rhee knew how to fix the nation’s schools. The subtitle was “Michelle Rhee is the head of Washington, D.C., schools. Her battle against bad teachers has earned her admirers and enemies—and could transform public education.” The story inside was written by Amanda Ripley. We now know that Michelle Rhee did not transform the public schools of the District of Columbia, although she fired hundreds of teachers and principals.

 

 

Newsweek had a cover on March 5, 2010, saying “The Key to Saving American Education: We must fire bad teachers,” a phrase that was written again and again on the cover, as if on a chalkboard. The story began with the false claim that “Once upon a time, American students tested better than any other students in the world.” Simply untrue; when the first international assessments were administered in 1964, American seniors scored dead last of 12 nations and in the fifty years that followed, we never outscored the rest of the world. The Newsweek story celebrated the mass firing of high school teachers (without any evaluations) in Central Falls, Rhode Island, a calamitous event that was hailed by Secretary Arne Duncan as a bold stroke forward.

 

 

And now TIME has added another cover story to the litany of complaints against “bad teachers.” This one, dated November 3, 2014, has a cover that reads: “Rotten Apples: It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher: Some Tech Millionaires May Have Found a Way to Change That.” The cover shows a judge’s gavel about to smash an unblemished, shining apple. The story inside was written by Haley Sweetland Edwards. In addition, the magazine includes a column by Nancy Gibbs, Editor of the magazine, commenting on the story.

 

 

The underlying theme of all these covers and stories is that “bad teachers” have ruined and continue to ruin American education, harming children and the nation. They claim that unions and rigid tenure rules are protecting these terrible teachers. Get rid of the “bad teachers” and America’s test scores will fly to the top of the world. That seems to be the assumption behind Arne Duncan’s insistence that teachers must be evaluated to a significant degree by the test scores of their students. Those who get higher scores get extra money, while those with low scores may lose their tenure, lose their job, lose their license.

 

That seems just to the folks who edit Newsweek and TIME, to the tech millionaires and billionaires, but it seems very unjust to teachers, because they know that their ratings will rise or fall depending on who is in their class. Students are not randomly assigned. If teachers are teaching English-language learners or students with disabilities or even gifted students, they will see small gains; they may not see any gains, even though they are good teachers. Their ratings may fluctuate wildly from year to year. Their ratings may fluctuate because of the formula. Their ratings may fluctuate if the test is changed. To many teachers, this system is a roll of the dice that might end their career. A recent Gallup Poll showed that 89% of teachers oppose test-based evaluations of their quality. This is not because teachers object to evaluations but because they object to unfair evaluations.

 

The most recent TIME cover and story should be viewed in three pieces, because the pieces don’t fit together snugly.

 

First is the cover. Someone, my guess would be someone with more authority than the writer, approved a highly insulting cover illustration and accompanying language. Should the perfect apple (the teacher) be crushed by the judge’s gavel? Is the profession filled with “rotten apples”? Is it “nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher”? Nothing in the accompanying story demonstrates the accuracy of this allegation.

 

Then comes the story itself, written by Haley Sweetland Edwards. Edwards contacted me to ask me to read the story and judge for myself, rather than be swayed by the cover (the implication being that the cover is sensationalized and thus emotional and inaccurate, although she did not use those words). She sent me a pdf. file whose title, interestingly enough, was “shall we let millionaires change education.” Now, THAT would have been an interesting story, and the kernel of it is in Edwards’ article.

 

She writes about the battle over teacher tenure:

 
“The reform movement today is led not by grassroots activists or union leaders but by Silicon Valley business types and billionaires. It is fought not through ballot boxes or on the floors of hamstrung state legislatures but in closed-door meetings and at courthouses. And it will not be won incrementally, through painstaking compromise with multiple stakeholders, but through sweeping decisions—judicial and otherwise—made possible by the tactical application of vast personal fortunes.


“It is a reflection of our politics that no one elected these men to take on the knotty problem of fixing our public schools, but here they are anyway, fighting for what they firmly believe is in the public interest.”

 

Now, think about it. What she has written here is that a handful of extremely wealthy men work behind closed doors to usurp the democratic process. No wasting time with voting or legislative action. They use their vast personal fortunes to change a public school system that few of them have ever utilized as students or parents. True, David Welch, who is bankrolling the legal challenges, attended public schools but it is not clear in the story whether his own children ever went to public school or if he himself has set foot in one since his own school days long ago. Then follows a rather star-struck account of this multi-millionaire as he sets his sights on ending due process for public school teachers, engaging a high-priced public relations team, creating a well-funded organization with a benign name, and hiring a crack legal team. Now, he is repeating his strategy in New York and other states; he is Ahab pursuing the bad teacher. The Vergara decision is presented as a culminating victory, where everyone hugs and kisses at the outcome, even though not a single plaintiff was able to identify a “bad teacher” who had actually caused her any harm.

 

 

The story fails to note that Judge Treu, in his Vergara decision, cited a witness for the defense, education scholar David Berliner, who guessed that maybe 1-3% of teachers might be incompetent; when the judge jumped on that number as a “fact” in his decision, Berliner retracted it and said he had not conducted any study of teacher competence in California and it was a “guesstimate” at best. Too late. Berliner’s guesstimate became Judge Treu’s “proof” that the bottom 1-3% should be fired before they do more harm.

 

Up to this point in the story, David Welch and his fellow millionaire/billionaire reformers are treated heroically. But then comes Edwards’ ending, where she concludes with almost two full columns undercutting value-added assessment and the very idea that tests of students can accurately gauge teacher effectiveness.

 

Edwards writes about how No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have led most states to create teacher evaluation systems tied to test scores that determine tenure, layoff decisions, and bonuses. She writes: “This two-decade trend has not, of course, been free of controversy. But what began with protests over ‘high-stakes testing’ and cheating scandals in various public-school districts [my note: including Michelle Rhee’s] in the mid-2000s has morphed in the past six months into an outright mutiny, driven in large part by the controversial rollout of Common Core State Standards, which are linked to new state curriculums, more-difficult tests and new teacher evaluations.” She points out that teachers have filed lawsuits in several states. “Many argued that policies focusing on cold, statistical measures fail to take into account the messy, chaotic reality of teaching in communities where kids must content with poverty and violence.”

 

Edwards then goes on to cite the numerous studies challenging the validity of value-added assessment. She mentions the American Statistical Association’s report on VAM, a review by the American Educational Research Association, even a study published by the U.S. Department of Education finding that “VAM scores varied wildly depending on what time of day tests were administered or whether the kids were distracted.” Had she started the story with this summary, it would have been a very different story indeed. It would have shown that the millionaires and billionaires have no idea how to judge teacher effectiveness and are introducing chaos into the lives of teachers who are doing a hard job for less than the millionaires pay their secretaries.

 

Edwards wrote, I am guessing, a good story about the invalidity of VAMs and the insistence of the tech millionaires/billionaires that they know more about education than teachers and that they are ready to deploy millions to force their views on a public education system about which they are uninformed. For them, it is a power trip, not reform. Again my guess is that her editor rewrote the story to make the millionaires look heroic, because what they are doing is not heroic. Anyone who has any regular contact with public schools expects it will be harder to recruit good teachers as a result of the Vergara decision. But the millionaires don’t know that.

 

 

The third part of the TIME story is the four-paragraph column by Nancy Gibbs, Editor of TIME. She calls it “Honor Thy Teacher,” an ironic title for her piece and for the cover illustration, which Dishonors All Teachers. Gibbs begins by thanking three teachers– Mrs. Flanagan, Miss Raymond, and Mr. Schwartz–who “seeded” her imagination and shaped her character. But she then goes on to say that “one Texas study found that cutting class size by 10 students was not as beneficial as even modest improvement in the teacher.” That is bizarre. I wish she had identified the study or its author. I don’t know of any teacher, even the best, who would not prefer to teach smaller classes; I don’t know of any teacher who thinks he or she can do their best when they have 35 or 45 children in the class. Gibbs then goes on to reiterate the familiar claim that other countries draw their teachers from the top third of graduates while the U.S. draws almost half of its teachers from the bottom third. Again, I would like to see her citation for that datum. Perhaps the three teachers she thanked at the outset—Mrs. Flanagan, Miss Raymond, and Mr. Schwartz—were drawn from the bottom third.

 

Does Nancy Gibbs know that between 40-50% of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years (perhaps those in the bottom third)? Does she know that education programs are shrinking because young people no longer see teaching as a desirable career, given the contempt that people like Gibbs and legislators in states like North Carolina and Indiana and millionaires like David Welch heap on teachers? Does she know that teachers in California must acquire a liberal arts degree before they can enter education programs? Does she know that many experienced teachers are leaving the profession because of the highly public attacks on teachers by people like Arne Duncan, David Welch, and Michelle Rhee? Which side is she on? Does she side with Mrs. Flanagan, Miss Raymond, and Mr. Schwartz, or with the tech millionaires and billionaires who want to reduce them to data points and fire them? Has the thought occurred that the tech millionaires want to replace teachers with computers? It makes sense to them. The rest of us would like to see greater support for teachers, greater emphasis on recruitment and retention of those who have the responsibility for instructing the nation’s children.

Nancy Flanagan, a teacher with more than 3 decades of experience, a National Board CertifiedTeacher, says that tenure does not make it impossible to fire bad teachers. She knows. She has seen it. She says the cover of TIME was far worse than the article (true).

What good is tenure? It creates a fair process for decisions about termination.

She writes:

“As a long-time classroom practitioner–going back to the early 70s–I would say that this recent tidal wave of entrepreneurial experimentation with the purposes and structures of public education is the single most dangerous issue facing American families with children. When deep-pockets venture capitalists start thinking they can run an essential public service more “efficiently,” look out.

“Here’s the funny thing. Teacher tenure has never really been a fortress that protects incompetent hacks and abusers. It has functioned as a set of rules by which undesirable teachers could be–fairly–jettisoned, then have the decision to release that teacher stand. It gave teachers a reasonable period of time to establish their long-term worth (with the option to open the trap door quickly, in the early stages, for egregiously inept or shady folks). It also gave administrators and school boards a defined set of reasons why a teacher might reasonably be let go, after the district committed to hiring him.

“How do I know that it’s not “nearly impossible” to fire bad teachers? Because my medium-sized, semi-rural district did so, repeatedly, during the 30 years I worked there. The tenure system worked there, long before state-mandated, data-driven, high-tech teacher evaluation models were established–when we were using what everyone now describes as meaningless checklists. It worked when the probationary period, set by the state, was two years but it worked even better when that probationary period was bumped to four years–more time to evaluate a new teacher’s worth as a classroom practitioner, and make a good decision for the long term.”

She adds, in this thoughtful article:

“”Unions protect bad teachers” is a false meme. Unions also protect good teachers. Unions protect students from tech millionaires and venture capitalists, and having their personal worth, and that of their teachers, evaluated by test data.”

The TIME article ends by citing a growing number of studies that show how flawed test-based evaluation of teachers is.

We all need protection from the whims of tech billionaires, who are using their wealth to control our public institutions, even the electoral process. Our best line of defense: get out and vote.

This is the worst constitutional amendment to appear on any state ballot in 2014.

missouriballotissue

It ties teacher evaluation to student test scores. It bans collective bargaining about teacher evaluation. It requires teachers to be dismissed, retained, promoted, demoted, and paid based primarily on the test scores of their students. It requires teachers to enter into contracts of three years or less, thus eliminating seniority and tenure.

This is VAM with a vengeance.

This ballot resolution is the work of the far-right Show-Me Institute, funded by the multi-millionaire Rex Sinquefeld.

He is a major contributor to politics in Missouri and to ALEC.

The Center for Media and Democracy writes about him:

“Sinquefield is doing to Missouri what the Koch Brothers are doing to the entire country. For the Koch Brothers and Sinquefield, a lot of the action these days is not at the national but at the state level.

“By examining what Sinquefield is up to in Missouri, you get a sobering glimpse of how the wealthiest conservatives are conducting a low-profile campaign to destroy civil society.

“Sinquefield told The Wall Street Journal in 2012 that his two main interests are “rolling back taxes” and “rescuing education from teachers’ unions.”

“His anti-tax, anti-labor, and anti-public education views are common fare on the right. But what sets Sinquefield apart is the systematic way he has used his millions to try to push his private agenda down the throats of the citizens of Missouri.”

Steven Singer, teacher, was outraged by the cover of TIME that said it’s nearly impossible to fire bad teachers but tech millionaires have figured it out.

He writes:

“It is IMPOSSIBLE to fire a bad teacher.

“Unless of course you document how that teacher is bad.

“You know? Due process. Rights. All that liberal bullshit.

“Thank goodness we have tech millionaires to stand up for the rights of totalitarians everywhere!

“A slew of Microsoft wannabes is taking up the mantle of the bored rich to once again attack teacher tenure.

“They claim it’s almost impossible to fire bad teachers because of worker’s rights.

“You know who actually is impossible to fire!? Self-appointed policy experts!

“No one hired them to govern our public schools. In fact, they have zero background in education. But they have oodles of cash and insufferable ennui. Somehow that makes them experts!

“I wonder why no one wants to hear my pet theories on how we should organize computer systems and pay programmers. Somehow the change in my pocket doesn’t qualify me to make policy at IBM, Apple or Microsoft. Strange!”

And be sure to read the imaginary editorial meeting where they decided to let know nothing millionaires tell schools how to do their job.

The leaders of the BATs sent the following letter to TIME magazine in response to the magazine’s insulting cover story about American teachers:

They wrote:

As delegates of an organization that represents the collective voices of 53,000 teachers, we take issue with the cover selected for the November 3 edition of Time. We believe that the image is journalistically irresponsible because it unfairly paints teachers and teacher tenure in a negative light.

The gavel as a symbol of corporate education, smashing the apple – the universal symbol of education – reinforces a text applauding yet another requested deathblow to teacher tenure. Instead of clarity, this continues the misconception that tenure ensures a job for life. It does not. It ensures “just cause” rationale before teachers can be fired.

In addition, the cover perpetuates the pernicious myth of the “bad” teacher and tenure as the prime enablers of larger failures in American education. This is a false narrative. These failures are due to structural inequalities and chronic underfunding in our educational systems, not due to teachers and teacher tenure.

The cover feeds this narrative with the misleading statement, “It is nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.” A few months ago talk show host Whoopi Goldberg made similar statements suffering under the same basic misunderstanding of teacher tenure as something akin to what college professors enjoy rather than a simple guarantee of procedural due process which is its function in K-12 education.

Nevertheless, opponents of teacher tenure have consistently invoked the “bad teacher” argument as pretext to attack not only teachers but also teacher unions, arguing that they place the needs of students second to the protection of underperforming teachers.
In fact, teacher tenure has served as an important protection to allow teachers to advocate for students— especially with regard to maintaining manageable class sizes, safe instructional spaces, the needs of students who are English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities.

Given the massive increase in student enrollments, one of the greatest shortfalls is in the number of teachers themselves. A simple accounting of all the teaching positions lost in the great recessions reveals that the nation would need 377,000 more teachers in the classroom just to keep pace not to mention combat the shameful shortage of teachers of color.

In its haste to disparage teachers, the cover inadvertently tells a larger truth. The instrument used to destroy teacher tenure is wielded against the entire profession. It seeks to obliterate due process for all teachers rather than to ensure its proper use.

More significantly, the cover uncritically situates the tech millionaires as saviors without revealing their own self-interest in the tenure fight, the creation of a nation of corporate-run franchise schools taught by untrained teachers and measured by high stakes test developed and administered by those same millionaires.

In an age where transparency in politics and journalism is sorely needed, we regret Time’s decision to proceed with a cover so clearly at odds with the truth.

The Badass Teachers Association
(Created by BAT Administrators and edited by Marla Kilfoyle, Melissa Tomlinson, Steven Singer, and Dr. Yohuru Williams)

The cover of next week’s TIME magazine is deeply insulting to hard-working teachers, with its headline, “Rotten Apples” and the claim that it is nearly impossible to fire tenured teachers (but tech millionaires who know nothing about education know how to do it: abolish tenure). As most people in the education field know, about 40% of those who enter teaching leave within five years. More: tenure is due process, the right to a hearing, not a guarantee of a lifetime job. Are there bad apples in teaching? Undoubtedly, just as there are bad apples in medicine, the law, business, and even TIME magazine. There are also bad apples in states where teachers have no tenure. Will abolishing tenure increase the supply of great teachers? Surely we should look to those states where teachers do not have tenure to see how that worked out. Sadly, there is no evidence for the hope, wish, belief, that eliminating due process produces a surge of great teachers.

Jersey Jazzman here begins a series of posts about the TIME article. Some said it wasn’t as inflammatory as the cover. JJ says that may be so, but the article is nonetheless a font of misguided opinion.

Ewin Chemerinsky, Dean of the School of Law at the University of California in Irvine, wrote this compelling article about the Vergara decision and teachers’ due process rights.

 

He writes, in part:

 

American public education desperately needs to be improved, especially for the most disadvantaged children. But eliminating teachers’ job security and due-process rights is not going to attract better educators — or do much to improve school quality.

 

In recent months, several respected progressive scholars and politicians have endorsed litigation, like a successful case in California, to weaken the protections afforded public school teachers. Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown is spearheading a suit in New York. Their goals are laudable, but their means are misguided.

 

The problem of inner-city schools is not that the dedicated teachers who work in them have too many rights, but that the students who go to them are disadvantaged in many ways, the schools have inadequate resources and the schools are surrounded by communities that are dangerous, lack essential services and are largely segregated both by race and class.

 

Taking the modest job security accorded by tenure away from teachers will address none of these problems.

 

The causal relationship alleged by the plaintiffs in these lawsuits — that teachers’ rights cause minority students to receive substandard educations — is belied by readily available empirical evidence.

 

If the plaintiffs were correct, similarly situated students in states with weak protection of teachers — such as Texas, Alabama and Mississippi — would have higher levels of achievement and the racial achievement gap would be smaller in those states. But there is no evidence that minority students in Houston, Birmingham or Jackson outperform those in Los Angeles or New York.

 

He adds:

 

One of the biggest challenges in education today is teacher retention. In the District of Columbia, 80% of teachers leave within five years. Getting rid of tenure and due process will not encourage more teachers to stay in the profession. It will drive them out and discourage other qualified people from entering the profession in the first place.

 

The plaintiffs who are bringing these lawsuits have misappropriated the soaring rhetoric and fundamental principles of the civil rights movement. Civil rights lawyers have worked for decades to end racial segregation in schools and neighborhoods and equalize school funding.

 

Cloaking the attack on teachers’ rights in the rhetoric of the civil rights movement is misleading. Lessening the legal protections for teachers will not advance civil rights or improve education.

 

TIME Magazine has a cover story called “Rotten Apples,” in which it falsely asserts (on the cover) that “It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher. Some Tech Millionaires May Have Found a Way to Change That.” Here is a link to the cover and a petition denouncing this slander.

This TIME cover is as malicious as the Newsweek cover in 2010 that said, “We Must Fire Bad Teachers. We Must Fire Bad Teachers. We Must Bad Teachers,” and the TIME cover in 2008 showing a grim Michelle Rhee with a broom, prepared to sweep out “bad” teachers and principals. (As we now know, Rhee fired many educators, but saw no significant gains during her tenure in office.)

This non-stop teacher bashing, funded by millionaires and billionaires, by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and even by the U.S. Department of Education, has become poisonous. Enrollments in teacher education programs are declining, sharply in some states. Experienced teachers are retiring early. Teaching has become so stressful, in this era of test mania, that our nation’s biggest teacher issue is recruiting and retaining teachers, not firing them.

Since when do tech millionaires know anything about teaching children? Why should they determine the lives and careers of educators? Why don’t they volunteer to teach for a week and then share their new wisdom?

Randi Weingarten is fighting back against TIME’s scurrilous cover. She is organizing a campaign to let TIME know that they have outraged and insulted America’s teachers. This bullying has to stop! Speak out! Tweet! Sign the petition! Write a letter to the editor! Organize a protest at TIME headquarters. Don’t let them get away with bullying teachers who earn less, work harder, and have greater social value than the writers at TIME or the tech millionaires.

Randi Weingarten writes:

From: Randi Weingarten
Date: Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 5:36 PM
Subject: Teachers aren’t rotten apples

Time magazine is about to use its cover to blame teachers for every problem in America’s schools. On Monday, Nov. 3, this cover will be in every supermarket checkout line and newsstand across the country—and it’s already online.

When I saw this today, I felt sick. This Time cover isn’t trying to foster a serious dialogue about solutions our schools need—it’s intentionally creating controversy to sell more copies.

We’re running a petition demanding that Time apologize. Will you help us spread the word by using the tweets below to call on Time to apologize?

This midleading @Time cover hurts teachers and damages the mag’s own credibility. Ask them to apologize! #TIMEfail

Why is @Time attacking teachers? This misleading cover is more about sales than truth. Demand and apology! #TIMEfail

.@Time should do the right thing and ditch the planned anti-teacher cover! #TIMEfail

Once you’ve tweeted, please sign the petition telling Time’s editors to apologize for this outrageous attack on America’s teachers.

The millionaires and billionaires sponsoring these attacks on teacher tenure claim they want to get great teachers into the schools that serve high-need kids. It’s a noble goal, but stripping teachers of their protections won’t help.

In fact, this blame-and-shame approach only leads to low morale and high turnover, making it even harder to get great teachers into classrooms. Just today, constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky wrote a fact-based argument that tenure protections help recruit and retain high-quality teachers! In fact, there is a strong correlation between states with strong teacher tenure and high student performance.

And Time’s cover doesn’t even reflect its own reporting. The Time article itself looks at the wealthy sponsors of these efforts. And while it looks critically at tenure, it also questions the testing industry’s connections to Silicon Valley and the motives of these players.

But rather than use the cover to put the spotlight on the people using their wealth to change education policy, Time’s editors decided to sensationalize the topic and blame the educators who dedicate their lives to serving students. The cover is particularly disappointing because the articles inside the magazine present a much more balanced view of the issue. But for millions of Americans, all they’ll see is the cover, and a misleading attack on teachers.

There are serious challenges facing our schools—tell Time that blaming teachers won’t solve anything.

When we work together instead of pointing fingers, we know we can help students succeed.

In places like New Haven, Conn., Lawrence, Mass., Los Angeles’ ABC school district and many others, union-district collaboration is leading to real change2.

Instead of pitting students and teachers against each other, these districts are showing how we can build welcoming, engaging schools by working together to give kids the education they deserve. As a result of this collaborative approach, once-struggling schools all over America are turning around.

When we collaborate, we’re able to recruit AND retain high-quality teachers, and reclaim the promise of a high-quality education for every student.

And when we work together, we can also change tenure to make it what it was supposed to be—a fair shake before you are fired, not a job for life, an excuse for administrators not to manage or a cloak for incompetence.

But instead of a real debate, Time is using the cover to sensationalize the issue so it can sell magazines.

Tell Time magazine to apologize for blaming teachers in order to sell magazines.

We need to have a substantive, facts-based conversation about the challenges our schools face and the real solutions that will help educators and kids succeed.

Help us tell Time that blaming teachers isn’t the way to help struggling schools.

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President

1 “Teacher Tenure: Wrong Target”

2 “Four Solutions to Public School Problems”

Steven Singer, teacher, describes the accumulating series of insults and indignities heaped upon teachers by the federal and state governments and by politicians who wouldn’t last five minutes in a classroom.

He writes, in indignation and fury:

“You can’t do that.

“All the fear, frustration and mounting rage of public school teachers amounts to that short declarative sentence.

“You can’t take away our autonomy in the classroom.

“You can’t take away our input into academic decisions.

“You can’t take away our job protections and collective bargaining rights.

“You can’t do that.

“But the state and federal government has repeatedly replied in the affirmative – oh, yes, we can.

“For at least two decades, federal and state education policy has been a sometimes slow and incremental chipping away at teachers’ power and authority – or at others a blitzkrieg wiping away decades of long-standing best practices.

“The latest and greatest of these has been in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Earlier this week, the state-led School Reform Commission simply refused to continue bargaining with teachers over a new labor agreement. Instead, members unilaterally cancelled Philadelphia teachers contract and dictated their own terms – take them or get out.

“The move was made at a meeting called with minimal notice to hide the action from the public. Moreover, the legality of the decision is deeply in doubt. The courts will have to decide if the SRC even has the legal authority to bypass negotiations and impose terms.

“One doesn’t have to live or work in the City of Brotherly Love to feel the sting of the state SRC. For many educators across the nation this may be the last straw.

“For a long time now, we have watched in stunned silence as all the problems of society are heaped at our feet…..”

“Teachers dedicate their lives to fight the ignorance and poverty of the next generation and are found guilty of the very problem they came to help alleviate. It’s like blaming a doctor when a patient gets sick, blaming a lawyer because his client committed a crime or blaming a firefighter because an arsonist threw a match.

“The Philadelphia decision makes clear the paranoid conspiracy theories about school privatization are neither paranoid nor mere theories. We see them enacted in our local newspapers and media in the full light of day.

Step 1: Poor schools lose state and federal funding.

Step 2: Schools can’t cope with the loss, further reduce services, quality of education suffers.

Step 3: Blame teachers, privatize, cancel union contracts, reduce quality of education further.

“Ask yourself this: why does this only happen at poor schools?…”

“Poverty has been the driving factor behind the Philadelphia Schools tragedy for decades. Approximately 70% of district students are at or near the poverty line.

“To meet this need, the state has bravely chipped away at its share of public school funding. In 1975, Pennsylvania provided 55% of school funding statewide; in 2014 it provides only 36%. Nationally, Pennsylvania is 45th out of 50 for lowest state funding for public education.”

“Since the schools were in distress (read: poor), the state decided it could do the following: put the district under the control of a School Reform Commission; hire a CEO; enable the CEO to hire non-certified staff, reassign or fire staff; allow the commission to hire for-profit firms to manage some schools; convert others to charters; and move around district resources.

“And now after 13 years of state management with little to no improvement, the problem is once again the teachers. It’s not mismanagement by the SRC. It’s not the chronic underfunding. It’s not crippling, generational poverty. It’s these greedy people who volunteer to work with the children most in need.

“We could try increasing services for those students. We could give management of the district back to the people who care most: the citizens of Philadelphia. We could increase the districts portion of the budget so students could get more arts and humanities, tutoring, wraparound services, etc. That might actually improve the educational quality those children receive.

“Nah! It’s the teachers! Let’s rip up their labor contract!

“Take my word for it. Educators have had it.”

Don’t be a scapegoat any longer, Singer says.

Here is his clarion call, his war cry: Refuse to give the tests they use to label you and call you a failure.

“It follows then that educators should refuse to administer standardized tests across the country – especially at poor schools.

“What do we have to lose? The state already is using these deeply flawed scores to label our districts a failure, take us over and then do with us as they please.

“Refuse to give them the tools to make that determination. Refuse to give the tests. How else will they decide if a school is succeeding or failing? They can’t come out and blame the lack of funding. That would place the blame where it belongs – on the same politicians, bureaucrats and billionaire philanthropists who pushed for these factory school reforms in the first place.

“This would have happened much sooner if not for fear teachers would lose their jobs. The Philadelphia decision shows that this may be inevitable. The state is committed to giving us the option of working under sweatshop conditions or finding employment elsewhere. By unanimously dissolving the union contract for teachers working in the 8th largest district in the country, they have removed the last obstacle to massive resistance.

“Teachers want to opt out. They’ve been chomping at the bit to do this for years. We know how destructive this is to our students. But we’ve tried to compromise – I’ll do a little test prep here and try to balance it with a real lesson the next day. Testing is an unfortunate part of life and I’m helping my students by teaching them to jump through these useless hoops.

“But now we no longer need to engage in these half measures. In fact, continuing as before would go against our interests.

“Any Title 1 district – any school that serves a largely impoverished population – would be best served now if teachers refused to give the powers that be the tools needed to demoralize kids, degrade teachers and dissolve their work contracts. And as the poorer districts go, more affluent schools should follow suit to reclaim the ability to do what’s best for their students. The standardized testing machine would ground to a halt offering an opportunity for real school reform. The only option left would be real, substantial work to relieve the poverty holding back our nation’s school children.

“In short, teachers need to engage in a mass refusal to administer standardized tests.

“But you can’t do that,” say the politicians, bureaucrats and billionaire philanthropists.

“Oh, yes, we can.”

Jonathan Pelto reports that Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut announced he will stay the course on his corporate education reform policies, despite the huge scandal associated with the Jumoke charter school. Jumoke was one of the governor’s star charters until it was revealed that its CEO had a criminal past and a fake doctorate. Malloy supports tying teacher evaluation to test scores, despite the fact that this method has worked nowhere. And as Pelto reminds us, he proposed eliminating (not reforming but eliminating) teachers’ due process rights. He also advocated a no-union policy in the state’s poorest schools. He seems to have bought hook, line, and sinker the reformer claim that unions and tenure depress student test scores, even though the highest performing schools in the state have unions and tenure.

Why would a Democratic governor advocate for the failed policies of corporate reform? One guess. Connecticut has a large concentration of hedge fund managers, whose ideology and campaign contributions are aligned. In their highly speculative business, no one has unions or tenure. When stocks or investments go bad, they dump them. They think that schools should live by their principles. They should read Jamie Vollmer’s famous blueberry story. You can’t throw away the bad blueberries. Unless you run a charter school. Then you can exclude bad blueberries and kick out other bad blueberries.

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