Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching

Valerie Strauss here analyzes the sharp drop in Teach for America recruits. The numbers of new corps members are down by as much as 25%.

Why? Teachers’ morale has declined precipitously from 2008-2012 (will Arne Duncan be held accountable?) and the teaching profession has lost its allure. Strauss points out that TFA may be a causal factor in the loss of respect for the profession, since it claims that brand néw college graduates are better than veteran teachers. By doing so, TFA has encouraged the belief that 5 weeks of training is good enough. This destroys the profession as such. Veteran teachers have been replaced by TFA kids. This can contribute to instability and demoralization.

Lee Barrios is a retired Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Louisiana.

Open letter to BESE –

Occasionally, albeit rarely, I receive confirmation that I am not only NOT crazy but that I am correct. Because I always base my actions on evidence and am always open to correction, it doesn’t really surprise me and I sleep well at night.

This BESE, on the other hand, ( 8 of you to be exact) have proven that you have personal agendas and are determined to support the lies of Supt. White and his well known cadre of business and political promoters. You are all very intelligent individuals and have ample opportunity to seek out and understand the truth. I give you no benefit of the doubt.

As I have said repeatedly, you are complicit as proven by your actions. However it is never too late to redeem a modicum of respect and honor by standing up and admitting you have been duped. It appears that now is an appropriate time to do that.

You all and John White have created chaos, pain, suffering, loss of excellent teachers, embarrassment for our state, and REAL damage to the education and lives of our children. You must understand that there can be NO test this spring and that the whole high stakes testing accountability must be overhauled and transformed from a purely punitive weapon to some kind of constructive process. Get rid of all the TFA junkies in LDE and replace them with education experts so that can be accomplished! Begin with Supt. White!

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT
Secondary English, Journalism, Gifted
178 Abita Oaks Loop
Abita Springs, Louisiana 70420
http://www.geauxteacher.net

“If a child struggles to clear the high bar at five feet, she will not become a “world class” jumper because someone raised the bar to six feet and yelled “jump higher,” or if her “poor” performance is used to punish her coach.” – – CommonSense

http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-Myth-of-Average-Todd-Rose-a

“I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”—— Albert Einstein

Peter Smagorinsky, a professor at the University of Georgia, has decided to write articles about great teachers instead of just railing against bad ideas. This article features first-grade teacher Bynikini Frazier of the Savannah-Chatham Public Schools.

 

She has wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl.

 

She meets a profile often seen among people who go into teaching: Her mother and grandmother were teachers, and, as she has said, “It’s in my blood. I was one of those kids who played school with my dolls and my bears. I gave them homework and detention. . . . I remember as a student here at Hodge in fifth grade deciding I wanted to be a teacher, and from then on strived to become that.”

 

Little did those dolls and bears know how lucky they were to be this precocious woman’s first students, homework, detentions, and all.

 

Like so many people who become teachers, Bynikini was an outstanding student throughout her education: Valedictorian of the Savannah Arts Academy’s Class of 2005, summa cum laude University of Georgia graduate in seven semesters, and earner of a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Armstrong State University.

 

She has won many honors, but her greatest joy comes from inspiring a love of learning in her students with hands-on activities, like the beehive that she installed in her classroom:

 

A love of learning is often fueled by passionate engagement, and Bynikini infuses her class with fun, high expectations for academics and conduct, singing and creative thinking. A dancer, she brings such active forms of learning as creative dance into the classroom, just one of many ways she keeps her students on their toes.

 

As reported in articles written about the 2015 Georgia Teacher of the Year competition (which post-dates the award year), for which she was a finalist, “her passion for teaching isn’t something that can be easily conjured up — it is a blessing and a calling that has an indelible impact on some of the neediest students.”

 

Her principal, Yvette Wells, summarized her qualities well: “Bynikini’s personality, style and energy set her apart. She is the teacher that parents request for their children because she is willing to do whatever it takes to reach every child no matter what their level, or who they are or where they come from.”

This post was written by a lawyer who also earned an MAT in secondary education. Writing as a lawyer, informed by her Ed school experience, she says that Arne’s plan to punish education colleges if the students of their graduates don’t get high test scores is “asinine.”

 

She explains:

 

“Now, please bear with me. Out here in lawyer-land, there’s a slippery concept that every first year law student must wrap her head around: it’s the idea of distinguishing between actual (or “but for”) causation and proximate (or “legal”) causation. Actual causation is any one of a vast link in the chain of events from the world was created to Harold injured me by hitting me, that, at some level, whether direct or attenuated, “caused” my injury. For instance, Harold couldn’t have hit me if the world hadn’t been created, because if the world hadn’t been created, Harold wouldn’t exist (nor would I), and therefore I never would have been hit by Harold. So, if actual or “but for” causation was legally sufficient to hold someone responsible for an injury, I could try suing “the Creator,” as if the Creator is somehow at fault for Harold’s decision to hit me.

 

Well, that’s preposterous, even by lawyer standards, right?

 

The law agrees with you: the Creator is too far removed from the injury, and therefore cannot be held legally responsible for it.

 

So to commit a tort (legal wrong) against someone else, it isn’t sufficient that the wrong allegedly committed actually — at some attenuated level — caused the injured’s injury (i.e., that the injury would not have happened “but for” some cause). Instead, the wrong must also be proximally related to that injury: that is, there must be a close enough tie between the allegedly negligent or otherwise wrongful act and the injury that results. So while it would be silly to hold “the Creator” legally responsible for Harold hitting me, it would not be similarly silly to hold Harold responsible for hitting me. Harold’s act was not only an actual or “but for” cause of my injury, it was also an act closely enough related to my injury to confer legally liability onto Harold. This is what we lawyers call proximate (or legal) causation: that is, proximate causation is an act that is a close enough cause of the injury that it’s fair — at a basic, fundamental level — to hold the person who committed that injurious act legally responsible (i.e., liable to pay damages or otherwise make reparations) for his act. [As an aside to my aside, if this sort of reasoning makes your head explode, law school probably isn’t a great option for you.]

 

Well, it appears that Arne Duncan would have failed his torts class. You see, Arne didn’t get the memo regarding the distinction between actual causation and proximate causation. Instead, what Arne proposes is to hold teacher prep programs responsible for the performance of their alumni’s K-12 students (and to punish them if their alumni’s students don’t measure up). Never mind the myriad chains in the causation link between the program’s coursework and the performance of its graduates’ students (presumably on standardized tests). Arne Duncan somehow thinks that he can proximally — fairly — link these kids’ performance not just to their teachers (a dicey proposition on its own), but to their teachers’ prep programs. Apparently Arne can magically tease out all other factors, such as where an alumna teaches, what her students’ home lives are like, how her students’ socio-economic status affects their academic performance, the level of her students’ intrinsic motivation, as well as any issues in the new alumna’s personal life that might affect her performance in the classroom, and, of course, the level of support provided to the new alumna as a new teacher by her department and administration, and so forth. As any first year law student can tell you, Arne’s proposal is asinine, as the alumna’s student’s test results will be so far removed from her teaching program’s performance that ascribing proximate causation from the program to the children’s performance offends a reasonable person’s sense of justice. [Not to mention the perverse incentives this would create for teaching programs’ career advising centers — what teaching program would ever encourage a new teacher to take on a challenging teaching assignment?]”

 

But that isn’t all. She compares her experience in her education school to her experience in law school and says that the education courses were far more practical than the law school and did a better job preparing her for the real world.

Patrick Hayes, who teaches in Charleston, S.C., did extensive research on the salaries that were promised and the actual salaries that teachers receive.

 

Although teachers were promised a raise, most will receive less money.

 

How can any school district expect to recruit great teachers when they don’t pay professional wages?

 

Patrick Hayes, by the way, started an organization called EdFirstSC, to advocate on behalf of students, teachers, and public schools.

Peter Berger teaches English at Weathersfield High School in Vermont. He says that the amount of instructional time wasted for faux professional development days is absurd. Equally absurd is the time and money wasted on consultants touring the latest fad, who never were teachers.

Likewise, the new online Common Core tests are a boon to the tech corporations, but not to the students, who actually write more on paper-and-pencil tests.

“I’ve stood behind my eighth-grade students as they’ve taken several publishers’ Common Core era tests. The directions were convoluted, the questions frequently did “focus on small details” and isolated, obscure bits of literary terminology, rather than on “overall comprehension,” and the questions often were ambiguous. Many were actually indecipherable, with words missing and incorrectly arranged so that students were left asking me what the question meant, and I was left to fill in the syntactical blanks and guess what they were being asked to do.

“The myth that these assessments are scientifically designed to generate meaningful data is insupportable. Any such guarantee is a fraud. Last week’s test was accompanied by a notice that the assessment contractor had added five questions to the test this year, for a total of 20 questions, in order to “provide more accurate test scores and less fluctuation in scores between test windows.”

“In other words, students, teachers, and schools that failed last time, and suffered interventions and sanctions as a result, maybe didn’t fail. Of course, students, teachers, and schools that appeared to succeed maybe didn’t succeed.

“Oh, well.”

Who dreamed up all this nonsense?

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan can’t get over his obsession with the idea that the only reason children don’t have higher test scores is because they have “bad teachers” with low expectations. He has consistently said that teachers’ colleges bear the blame for those “bad teachers.” Never having taught, he has strong opinions about how to fix teaching. He loves charter schools, especially those without unions; he loves Teach for America, because they are elite. He loves evaluating teachers, principals, schools, even teachers’ colleges, by student test scores.

 

David Berliner, one of our nation’s most eminent researchers, does not agree with Duncan. He has different ideas. He tells Duncan, as he once told his dean, how to solve the problems of teacher education.

 

Berliner writes:

 

 

“Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration want to improve teacher education. Me too. I always have. So I went to the president of the university I was then working at and showed him university data that I had collected. I informed him that a) we were running the cheapest program on campus, even cheaper to run than the English Literature and the History programs; and b) that some of our most expensive programs to run, computer science and various engineering programs, produced well-trained graduates that left the state. But teachers stayed in the state. I told my president he was wasting the states resources and investing unwisely.

 

“I told him that with the same amount of money as we spend on the students that leave the state I could design one year clinical programs so every teacher does clinical rotations in the classrooms of schools with different kinds of students, rotations modeled on medical education.”

 

Berliner has many other good ideas. Read them here. Arne should invite him to meet and hear his ideas on how to improve teacher education.

You don’t have to look far into the future to see the technology sector circling the schools, giving generously to elected officials, hyping the wonders of computers instead of teachers (so much cheaper, and computers never need a pension), and gently persuading legislatures to add online courses as graduation requirements. Consider the federally-funded tests for Common Core: all online, all requiring a massive investment in equipment, bandwidth and support services. The Golden Fleece: replacing teachers with computers.

 

Laura Chapman writes:

 

 

 

Latest Bamboozlers are the “on-line only” promoters of “learning,” no need for teachers.

 

In a press release dated February, 3, 2014 KnowledgeWorks and The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) announced their shared agenda for federal policies that would change “our entire K-12 education system” to fit a student-centered learning environment with demonstrations of competency, free of traditional notions of schools, teachers, and student learning.

 

The policy report addressed to federal officials calls for the status quo on requiring students to meet college-and career-ready standards, but these standards would be aligned with specific competencies mapped into the idea of optimum trajectories for learning that will lead to graduation. Individual students would be tracked on the “pace” of their mastery through the use of on-line and “real-time” data. The data for each student is supposed to inform the instruction, supports, and interventions needed by each student in order to graduate.

 

This vision requires competency-based interpretations of the college-and career-ready standards and measures of those competencies. It requires a recommendation system (data-driven guide) for prioritizing required learning and ensuring continuous improvement in learning until graduation.

 

The vision calls for federal funding to states and districts for developing “personalized learning pathways” (PLPs) for students along with the infrastructure needed to produce real-time data for just-in-time recommendations for the interventions and supports needed to move students to college and career readiness.

 

The system in intended to build reports on the progress of individual students relative to mastery, or a high level of competency, for the college and career readiness standards.

 

In addition to keeping individuals “on-pace” in demonstrating standards-aligned competencies, this entire system is envisioned as offering “useful information for accountability, better teaching and learning, and measures of quality in education.”

 

In effect, programmed instruction is the solution for securing student compliance with the Common Core State Standards, assuring their entry into college and a career, with “instructional designers and programmers” the surrogates for teachers. Teachers are not needed because the out-of-sight designers and programmers build the recommendation systems for needed “interventions,” also known as “playlists.”

 

This is a souped-up version of vintage 1950s programmed instruction amplified in scope and detail by technology–on-line playlists and monitors of PLPs–personal learning plans–available anytime.

 

In fact, students get one-size-fits education, at the rate they can manage. The rate learning is optimized by computers programmed to lead students to and from the needed playlists of activities (e.g., subroutines that function as reviews, simple re-teaching, new warm-ups for the main learning event or subsets of methods for presenting the same concept). The student does what the computer says and the computer decides if and when mastery or some other criterion for competence has been achieved.

 

The selling framework is for “personalized, competency-based student-centered learning in a de-institutionalized environment.

 

Out of view are scenarios where all education is offered by “learning agents” who broker educational services offered by a mix of for-profit and non-profit providers. Token public schools remain in the mix, but are radically reduced in number and the loss becomes a self-fulling prophesy justifying radical cuts in state support. Profit seekers, together with volunteers and “20-year commitments from foundations” provide for “students in need. This is one of several scenarios from KnowledgWorks.

 

 

The quest for federal funds is found here at http://knowledgeworks.org/building-capacity-systems-change-federal-policy-framework-competency-education#sthash.Nr0OpfWq.dpuf

 

See more at the CompetencyWorks website http://bit.ly/cwk12fedpolicy

Peter Greene noted that Minneapolis followed the terrible examples of Los Angeles in 2010 and New York City in 2012 and published teachers’ value-added ratings in the newspapers for all to see. Even Bill Gates objected to this practice and said in a New York Times article that it would harm the relationship between supervisors and teachers to publish job ratings in the paper. Gates said that publishing VAM scores was an act of “public shaming” and no good would come of it.

 

Greene writes:

 

As promised, this morning brought the publishing of teacher ratings, including VAM scores, with a map and a pearl-clutching interview with the district’s superintendent. The gap is shocking, alarming, inexplicable.

 

I’m speaking of course of the apparent gap between Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s brain and reality. How does somebody with this gigantic an inability to process data end up as a superintendent of a major school system?

 

Superintendent Johnson is shocked– shocked!!– to find that under this evaluation system, it turns out that all the worst teachers are working in all the poorest schools! Hmmm– the poorest schools have the worst results. What’s the only possible explanation? Teachers!! [Pause for the sound of me banging my head on the desk.]

 

“It’s alarming that it took this to understand where teachers are,” Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said Friday. “We probably knew that, but now have the hard evidence. It made me think about how we need to change our staffing and retention.”

 

No, Superintendent Johnson. What’s alarming is that you don’t understand a damn thing.

 

Here’s what you have “discovered.” If you rip the roof off a classroom, the teachers that you send to teach in that classroom will get wet when it rains. You cannot “fix” that by changing the teacher.

 

But apparently that’s the solution being considered. “Okay,” says Superintendent Johnson. “Over here we have teachers who stay dry and their students stay dry, so we’ll put this dry teacher in the classroom without a roof and have a dry teacher for the wet rooms. That’ll fix it.”

 

And Superintendent Johnson appears willing to go further. “Maybe we just need to fire the wet teachers and replace them with new, dry ones,” she may be thinking. [Sound of me banging my head against the concrete slab of my basement floor.]

 

If you want a dry teacher in the room, build a damn roof on it.

 

Look. Look look look look look. We already know that poverty absolutely correlates with test results. Show me your tests results and I will show you where your low-income students are. Poverty and lack of resources and underfunding put these students in a classroom without a roof, and anybody you put in there with them will be a wet teacher.

 

Build a damn roof.

 

Minneapolis public school officials say they are already taking immediate action to balance schools’ needs with teachers’ abilities. The district has created programs to encourage effective instructors to teach at high-needs schools and mentor the newest teachers. District officials say they are providing immediate training for teachers who are deficient. And last year, the district fired more than 200 teachers, roughly 6 percent of its teaching staff.

 

Wrong. All wrong. In fact, worse than wrong, because you are now in the position of saying, “Hey, over here we have a room with no roof on it, and if you teach in there and get wet when it rains, we intend to punish you. Now– who wants to volunteer to teach in the roofless room?? Also, we’ll probably smear your good name in the local paper, too. Any takers?”

 

And to the students, sitting in that roofless room day after day, shivering and wet as poverty and lack of resources and insufficient materials and neglect by the central office rain down on them, this sends a terrible message. “We know you are sick and wet in your roofless room,” says the district. “So we are not sending a roof or even ponchos or an umbrella. We’re not going to spend a cent more on you. We’re just going to stand a different teacher up in front of you, to see if she gets wet when it rains.”

 

 

Nancy F. Chewning, an assistant principal in Roanoke, Virginia, eviscerated TIME magazine for its cover story about teachers who are allegedly “Rotten Apples.” This impassioned article went viral.

“Have you characterized doctors or nurses on your cover as Rotten Apples? You have not. Is the government setting impossible benchmarks for doctors and nurses to make to correct this problem? No, they are not. Why? Because money talks in this country. The American Medical Association spent $18,250,000 in 2013 and $15,070,000 so far in 2014 lobbying our government; in fact, they rank number 8 in terms of organizations lobbying our government for influence. The NEA isn’t even in the ball park with the AMA, as they rank 221st.

“As Senator Elizabeth Warren has so aptly stated, “The system is rigged,” and it is definitely rigged against public education. In the latest Gallup poll, 75% of American parents said they were satisfied with the quality of education their child was receiving in public schools. However, the latest Gallup poll showed that only 14% of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job. Have you done a cover calling Congress Rotten Apples? Why no, you have not. In fact, I checked your covers for the last two years and not once have you said a disparaging word about Congress on your cover. Yet, the approval rating for teachers is 75%, and you have chosen to go after them. Why is that? Is it because as Gawker revealed earlier this year that your writers and editorial staff are required to “produce content that is beneficial to advertiser relationship”? So, was this attack on teachers really about pleasing advertisers and perhaps a billionaire from Silicon Valley with deep pockets as well?”

She notes that no teachers were interviewed for the story.

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