Archives for category: Teachers

I received this email from a friend:

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“Hey everyone! I’m looking for contributors for Teachers’ Lounge, a blog from PBS NewsHour by teachers on important topics in education:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/tag/teachers-lounge/

“This is a fairly new blog and we’re very flexible and open to pitches.
Generally, we’re interested in stories that have a national angle on timely
education issues.

“Feel free to let the educators in your life know about this–I’d love to
hear from them anytime! They can contact me directly at csegal@newshour.org.”


Corinne Segal

Editor, PBS NewsHour Extra

Peggy Robertson, one of the leading figures in the Opt Out movement, has compiled a list of teachers who refuse to give the mandated tests, as a matter of conscience.

 

She plans to add to the list as more teachers step up and refuse to obey what they believe is an unjust law.

Steve Cohen, superintendent of schools in Shoreham-Wading River (NY), wrote a column in Ling Island newspapers criticizing the state’s heavy-handed method of mandating change.

For his courage in speaking truth to power, I add Superintendent Steve Cohen to the blig’s honor roll.

Cohen points to a letter from Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the Néw York State Board of Regents, to Governor Cuomo’s representative, outlining her goals.

He writes:

“What’s striking in Ms. Tisch’s recommendations to the governor is the unstated proposition that there is a big difference between public education and state education, and that state education is far superior. From the chancellor’s point of view, public education hasn’t just failed poor, black and Hispanic children the most, but has somehow even failed kids in Great Neck, Jericho, Scarsdale and Garden City — even though many of them go on to the best universities in the nation.

“The remedy? State education.

“Public education is an old and very familiar institution. To be sure, school districts get their authority from New York State. But despite state guidance, school boards, and the administrators and teachers who work for these boards, have broad latitude to define curriculum and instruction.

“These boards and the superintendents they hire have authority over hiring and evaluating teachers and principals. The boards have a duty to propose a spending plan every year to district voters. Public education, in short, means “local control.”

“Public education is democracy in action. It has all the virtues and vices of our form of self-government. This democratic system has worked well in many districts, especially in those whose residents are relatively wealthy and thus able to afford the resources commonly found in thriving schools.

“But in poorer districts, and especially in large cities, democratic “local” control of education has not worked as well as we would all wish. The state Legislature has wrestled with this problem for generations and, in fact, is now under a Court of Appeals order to address fiscal inequities among districts.

“Public education is a complex, immense, difficult institution. Poverty and wealth more than anything tend to determine the outcome of its efforts.

“But it’s also among our most democratic institutions.

“Ms. Tisch, most of her non-elected colleagues and our current governor, however, seem to have arrived at the conclusion that local control of education does not, and cannot, work.”

“Now comes the chancellor’s suggestions that locally elected school boards should no longer have control over determining whether teachers and principals do a good job and that all teachers and principals who do not meet the state’s standard of successful teaching or supervising two years in a row must lose their jobs.

“Chancellor Tisch suggests that the content all children must learn and the methods teachers must use to teach that content will be determined by the state, not local residents in accord with professional educators, acting through democratically elected school board members. She suggests that charter schools, over which local residents have little if any control, would be completely free to flourish (or not!) and to replace democratically run local schools….

“So the non-elected chancellor and the current governor believe local control of education has failed. The great experiment is dead. What will take its place is a technocratic process so complex that it is almost impossible for parents, residents and educators to understand — much less embrace.”

Mercedes Schneider has some questions for Campbell Brown. Brown, who once worked for CNN, is now the face of the “reform” movement, at least the teacher-bashing wing of it. She has created an organization that filed a lawsuit opposing teacher tenure in Néw York. Her ostensible motive is to get sexual predators out of the classroom.

Schneider reviews the teachers’ contract in question and wonders whether Brown knows that it was negotiated by Joel Klein. She also wonders why Brown has been silent on the same issues regarding a certain mayor of a certain city in California.

Schneider is perplexed by Brown’s selective indignation. She cites the case of a Department of Education hire (not a member of the teachers’ union) who confessed to multiple charges of statutory rape. Brown’s silence is deafening. She quotes from Patrick Walsh, a teacher-blogger in Néw York City.

A regular commentator, Dienne, makes a point that is very important. She asks what is the value of comparing children, comparing teachers, comparing schools, and comparing states by test scores. She is right. The only ones who need to know a student’s test scores are the student, the parent(s), and the teacher, maybe even the principal. A test score is like a medical diagnosis. It is between you and your doctor; if you are a minor, it is between you, your doctor, and your parents. If the states wants to collect data, they do not need to look at your personal records. They use data to determine if there is a pattern that requires a public health response. But how a child scores on a test is no one’s business but those most immediately involved: the student, his/her parent(s), and teacher(s).

 

Dienne writes:

 

I think it’s a lose-lose battle so long as we continue to buy into the rephormers oft-repeated lie that we need “accountability” (with the implication that there isn’t any without standardized testing). There are multiple ways for parents to know how their children are doing – report cards, conferences with the teacher, science fairs, open houses, heck, just talking with their kids. How anyone else’s kid is doing is not anyone else’s business.

There are also ways to know how teachers are doing – that’s the principal’s job. Again, it’s not anyone else’s business, just like my performance review at my job is between me and my superiors.

The notion that we need some sort of nationally published stack-ranking system for schools or teachers is ludicrous and we need to say so.

Joe Bower, a terrific blogger and educator in Canada, noticed something odd in a report about new teachers who are staying longer. The teacher whose picture illustrated the report was a Teach for America recruit who didn’t stay. She taught for two years and quit.

Bower wrote:

“The article featured the picture to the right of Gabrielle Wooden. She taught in Mississippi for a whopping two years before quitting to become an account manager for Insight Global in St. Louis.

“Wooden belonged to Teach for America which is an organization that undermines children’s basic needs and is an accomplice to the corporate take over and privatization of public education.”

Peter Greene jumped on the story.

He writes:

“The Center for American Progress got another quick lesson in How the Internet Works. In their haste to prove that beginning teachers are sticking around for years and years (well, six years, anyway) they slapped up a lovely picture of a TFA temp who finished her two year stint and headed off to her real career in a corporate office. They helpfully included her name (Gabrielle Wooden) so that her actual job history could be found by anybody with an internet hookup and access to google. Joe Bower (in Canada) worked out this tricky research problem as well, and in the last fifteen hours a very long list have people have emailed and messaged me to join this particular swimming party in the warm waters of Lake Schadenfreude….”

“CAP raises a couple of legit concerns beyond the not-shocking news that media do not always report scientific research accurately.

“One is that the existing work on teacher retention is old, that we are talking about data from seven or eight years ago. Most importantly, we are not far enough down the road to see the effects of Common Core on the teacher force. Not to do obvious math here, but there’s no way to know what percentage of teachers are staying past five years when looking at teachers who entered the profession after 2009.

“Another is that this data can be highly local. My theory is that it’s even worse in the most teacher-hostile states. In North Carolina, a state that has gone out of its way to make teaching non-viable as a lifetime career, it would appear (via CAP) that a good local administration can make the difference between losing 10% or 20% of the teaching staff. When there’s a terrible storm blowing, what you do next depends a lot on whether you’re in a tumble-down shack or a solid brick structure. This is a problem with plenty of educational research and almost all education policy– every school is different in distinct and important ways (kind of like human children– go figure).”

Peter Greene poses a question in this post. If poor children get low test scores, does that mean that all those who teach poor children are bad teachers?

 

Peter is always funny in the way he presents the “a-ha!” moments in educational research, which are usually either obvious or dumb. Here he looks at a study in Education Next that considered a teacher evaluation program in Chicago. It worked best for the reading scores of advantaged children. It had zero effect on the reading scores of impoverished children. One conclusion might be that poverty matters. But the researchers instead reach a different conclusion.

 

Peter writes:

 

“Even though the data points to poverty as the big flashing neon sign of “Hey, here it is!” Steinberg and Sartain walk right past the blinking brightness to select again the teachers and principals as the cause. This is not so much mis-reading data as simply ignoring it. I’m not sure why they bothered with the big long article. They could have just typed, one more time, “Poor students do worse on standardized tests, therefor we conclude that the only possible explanation is that all the bad teachers in the world teach in high-poverty schools.” Also, I’ve noticed that whenever a building is on fire, there are firefighters there with big red trucks, so if you never want your building to burn down, keep firefighters and big red trucks away.

Governor Andrew Cuomo complained recently that legislators were too concerned with protecting teachers’ pensions and unconcerned with protecting children in “failing schools.”

Station WGRZ says that the average pension for retired school employees is $41,000 and change. Cuomo thinks teachers will produce higher test scores if he threatens their pensions. Apparently he wants more test prep, more teaching to the test, more narrowing of the curriculum to eliminate the arts and physical education so there is more time for testing.

Please, someone, tell the governor that threats don’t improve teaching and learning. Tell him that carrots and sticks do not get “results.”

Tell him to read Daniel Pink’s “Drive” or the research of Edward Deci and Dan Ariely on motivation. What teachers need is not threats but support, encouragement, and the resources to do their job.

This comment was left by a reader in response to this post from a teacher who had worked in the Brighter Choice charter chain in Albany. A few years ago, this chain was described as “the holy grail” of charter schools. Since then, some of its charters have been closed for poor performance and two more are on the chopping block:

 

 

Hi, I too worked in an Albany Charter and now work in the Albany City School District. I can agree with the post that there are a lot of teachers and administrators who really care about the kids and want to do everything they can to help them. In my time in the charter school I met and learned from a few really fantastic and committed teachers. I can also say most of these teachers and administrators are generally very young and inexperienced. The majority of administrators do not have administrative licenses. The majority of the teachers are still completing their Master’s degree and have limited-no experience.

 

The problem with the Albany Charters is the Brighter Choice Foundation and the tone of the schools. They need to make their money and run the schools like a business. The BCF (which is somehow now called the Albany Charter School Network, not sure why?!) sits on the third floor of the MS that may close. Mr.Carroll, Bender, and the other white, wealthy and older men who run this organization make no effort to get to know the students or interact with the staff. They park in their reserved spots and jet to their cushy offices to send down orders. I don’t really understand how the school can have Board Members who carry the lease of the school and profit from it, work for the BCF or have other clear, financial interests in the school. I think they should have to post all of their board meeting materials in the same manner ACSD does (http://albanyschools.org/district/board/2014-15/12-11/12-11-14.documents.html). Perhaps the public should start attending their board meetings. It is strange that although each school has a separate charter, the four board meetings happen at one time, in one building. I have never seen an agenda or minutes of a meeting, but I understand they are only an hour or two long as well.

 

There is too much pressure on the students, teachers and administrators. Yes, they do not expel as many kids but I have seen them “counsel out” a large, large number of students. They suspend students, have their parents come in and eventually say “maybe the district schools will be a better fit for your family”. The Brighter Choice Middle Schools also do not enroll students in the 7th or 8th grades because “it takes so long to teach the expectations of the school that at 7th grade it is too late”. Their special ed. and ELL population is limited and entirely different than the population of ACSD. They have no self-contained classrooms for students with autism, learning disabilities or emotional disturbances. They have no ELLs who are refugees and have never been to school or learned to read. This is probably a good thing for these students because they teach directly to the test and rarely differentiate instruction. The inexperienced and young teachers are pressured by administrators (who are in turn pressured by the Foundation) to drill test prep and test taking skills. They rarely read novels. Students are pulled during Sci/SS (which they receive in rotation instead of daily) for AIS services. With the high focus on test prep, students receive little to no humanities education. Lunches are often silent and the students do not even have the freedom to stand up to throw away their own lunches. The students know little freedom, so they often rebel any chance they get.

 

The interesting thing about the Brighter Choice MS for Boys and Girls failing is that it is in a way very reflective of both the Albany Charter Schools and the fact that it is not easy to run an effective urban middle school. The majority of the students at BCMS-Girls and Boys are from the area charter elementary schools. This means that the elementary schools (BCCS-Girls, Boys, Henry Johnson, ACC) are not preparing the students for the challenges of middle school as well. Could it be that there is no “quick fix” to better urban middle schools?

 

I imagine the BCF will put up a big fight to keep these schools open as they stand to lose a lot of money if this building closes. I imagine their deep pockets will end up keeping this school open for a few more years. I am sure Cuomo will fight tooth and nail for his friends at the Foundation as well.

You must be the light that opens the eyes of children to the wonders of learning.

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