Archives for category: Teachers

Zephyr Teachout, who is opposing Governor Cuomo in the New York Democratic primary, explained her strong opposition to the Common Core standards, which Cuomo supports.

She writes:

“Common Core forces teachers to adhere to a narrow set of standards, rather than address the personal needs of students or foster their creativity. That’s because states that have adopted the standards issue mandatory tests whose results are improperly used to grade a teacher’s skill and even to determine if he or she keeps their job. These tests have created enormous and undue stress on students, and eroded real teaching and real learning. What’s more, there’s sound reason to question whether these standards even measure the right things or raise student achievement. No doubt, many teachers have found parts of the standards useful in their teaching, but there is a big difference between optional standards offered as support, and standards foisted on teachers regardless of students’ needs.

“Widespread outrage from teachers and parents has led Gov. Cuomo to tweak the rules around the implementation of the Common Core and call for a review of the rollout. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not addressed the real problem with Common Core.

“The fundamental issue is not the technicalities of how the standards are implemented. It is not even that Gov. Cuomo allowed this regime even as he was stripping schools of basic funding, leading class sizes to swell and forcing schools to slash programs in art and extra help. The root problem with Common Core is that it is undemocratic. It is a scheme conceived and heavily promoted by a handful of distant and powerful actors. Here in New York, it was adopted with insufficient input from local teachers, parents, school boards or students, the very people whose lives it so profoundly affects.

“Bill Gates’ coup is part of a larger coup we’re living through today – where a few moneyed interests increasingly use their wealth to steer public policy, believing that technocratic expertise and resources alone should answer vexing political questions. Sometimes their views have merit, but the way these private interests impose their visions on the public – by overriding democratic decision-making – is a deep threat to our democracy. What’s more, this private subversion of public process has come at the precise time when our common institutions, starved of funds, are most vulnerable. But by allowing private money to supplant democracy, we surrender the fate of our public institutions to the personal whims of a precious few.”

Teachout concludes:

“As did the founding generation in America, I believe public education is the infrastructure of democracy. The best public education is made democratically, in the local community: when parents, teachers, and administrators work together to build and refine the education models and standards right for our children.”

In recent days, there has been an extended discussion online about an article by California whistle blower Kathleen Carroll, in which she blasts Randi Weingarten and the Teachers Union Reform Network for taking money from Gates, Broad, and other corporate reform groups, in some cases, more than a dozen years ago. Carroll also suggests that I am complicit in this “corruption” because I spoke to the 2013 national meeting of TURN and was probably paid with corporate reform money; she notes that Karen Lewis, Deborah Meier, and Linda Darling-Hammond also spoke to the TURN annual meeting in 2012 or 2013. I told Carroll that I was not paid to speak to TURN, also that I have spoken to rightwing think tanks, and that no matter where I speak and whether I am paid, my message is the same as what I write in my books and blogs. In the discussion, I mentioned that I spoke to the National Association of School Psychologists at its annual convention in 2012, one of whose sponsors was Pearson, and I thought it was funny that Pearson might have paid me to blast testing, my point being that I say what I want regardless of who puts up the money. At that point, Jim Horn used the discussion to lacerate me for various sins.

Mercedes Schneider decided to disentangle this mess of charges and countercharges. In the following post, Schneider uses her considerable research skills to dissect the issues, claims and counterclaims. All the links are included in this piece by Schneider. Schneider asked me for my speech to the National Association of School Psychologists as well as my remarks to the TURN meeting, which are included.

I will make two points here. First, Randi has been my friend for 20 years, and I don’t criticize my friends; we disagree on many points, for example, the Common Core, which I oppose and she supports. I don’t hide our disagreements but I won’t call her names or question her motives. Friends can disagree and remain friends.

Second, I recall learning how the left made itself impotent in American politics by fighting among themselves instead of uniting against the common adversary. I recall my first job at the New Leader magazine in 1960, where I learned about the enmity among the Cannonites, the Lovestonites, the Trotskyites, the Mensheviks, the Schactmanites, and other passionate groups in the 1930s. That’s when I became convinced that any successful movement must minimize infighting and strive for unity and common goals.

Even earlier, Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

In an article in the New York Times, two scholars explain how best to motivate people in every line of endeavor. Amy Wrzesniewski is an associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. Barry Schwartz is a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College.

They make a distinction between internal motivation and instrumental motivation. Usually, psychologists contrast intrinsic motivation (the desire to do something well) and extrinsic motivation (the desire to win a reward for doing something well). Intrinsic motivation wins every time. Carrots and sticks may work for animals, but not so well for people. And yet our policymakers continue to pursue punitive policies that threaten students, teachers, and principals, as well as promises of bonuses and rewards. These policies fail and fail again, yet The Bush administration, the Obama administration, and Congress can’t give up their devotion to failed incentives and punishments.

Want to read the research?

Read Daniel Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” Or Edward Deci’s “Why We Do What We Do.” Or Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” or Andrea Gabor’s book about W. Edwards Deming, “The Man Who Discovered Quality,” especially the chapter on why performance pay never works.

And be sure to check out the report of a prestigious commission of the National Academies of Science in 2011 that concluded that test-based accountability had produced meager improvement. Education Week summarized its findings: “Nearly a decade of America’s test-based accountability systems, from “adequate yearly progress” to high school exit exams, has shown little to no positive effect overall on learning and insufficient safeguards against gaming the system, a blue-ribbon committee of the National Academies of Science concludes in a new report.”

EduShyster explains the back story on the new team that has been assembled to eliminate teacher tenure wherever it still survives.

The lead player in this docudrama is Campbell Brown, a one-time CNN anchor who now works full-time to oust sexual predators from our classrooms. EduShyster says she will be rewarded with more airtime and media FaceTime.

Then there is the ex-Obama communications team, free from their D.C. duties to make war on teachers.

EduShyster reminds us that this will be a PR war, so get ready for the anecdotes about how “bad teachers” ruined someone ‘s life. This, of course, is the civil rights issue of our time, far more important than funding inequity, poverty, or budget cuts.

Best of all, Edushyster prepares us for mass confusion when the PR war begins:

“Is it pronounced *tenYEAR* or *tenYUR*? Why do teachers want to establish a caliphate in upstate New York anyway? Who broke the status quo? And when we fix it, will it still be the status quo? How many anecdotes does it take to make data? What exactly is the Levant? And is there any problem that *grit* can’t solve?”

At the Vergara trial, a student identified one of her teachers as undeserving of tenure. She named Christine McLaughlin of Blair Middle School. Ms. McLaughlin had been selected as Pasadena Teacher of the Year. So which is she?

This reader writes:

“Here’s a video of one of the “grossly ineffective teachers” and “2013 Pasadena Teacher of the Year” named in this lawsuit (by her former student and plaintiff Raylene Monterroza):

Mind you, this above video was played during court, and Ms. Monterroza was questioned about how it felt to watch the video of students praising her “grossly ineffective teacher” (starting at 00:49). She replied that watching it was upsetting, and that those students must have been lying as that wasn’t Ms. Monterroza’s experience.


Watch the “teacher of the year” video again, starting at 00:49, where the students give their opinion of the teachers.

Do these kids sound like they’re lying? Do the kids’ description of their teacher Ms. McLaughlin align with the criteria of the stereotypical “grossly ineffective teacher” that the Vergara legal team claims that Ms. McLaughlin is?

Again, this is a video portrait, as you see, celebrating and profiling Ms. McLaughlin’s award-winning teaching, as the “Rotary’s Pasadena 2013 Teacher of the Year.”

The student plaintiff, Ms. Raylene Monterroza, claimed in her testimony that those students in the video can’t be telling the truth, as it conflicts with her own experience. She said that watching that video prior to her testimony, “upset” her… as it included countless students contradicting her and the entire Vergara team’s claims that Ms. McLaughlin is… again… “a grossly ineffective teacher.”

Again, watch the video portrait of Ms. McLaughlin (who was also won the Pasadena NAACP’s “2008 Star of Education” award, by the way) and ask yourself…

So which is Ms. McLaughlin?

a deserving, multi-award-winning “Teacher of the Year”, praised to the hilt by countless students in the video?


“a grossly ineffective teacher” according to JUST ONE student, and a teacher who taught the (Vergara plaintiff) Ms. Monterroza “nothing,” and thus destroyed Ms. Monterroza’s education?

“Indeed, this whole Vergara trial was like something out of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” in China during the 1960′s. For those not acquainted with this, here’s primer: zealous students, under party leaders’ directions, would persecute their teachers. Kids would get their jollies as they put their teachers on a stage, put dunce caps on them, then screamed at them while forcing their teachers to bow their heads, kneel down, and confess their “crimes” and on and on…

These kids—appointed and empowered as “Red Guards” by Mao’s henchmen— would parade their former teachers through the streets…

Hey wait… there’s a scene from THE LAST EMPEROR that shows this way better than I could describe it…

Watch from: 01:19 – 04:19

(at which point—04:19—some female Red Guard students start performing an inane Commie “line dance” of sorts… creepy…)

At 02:45, watch “Pu Yi”—the former-Chinese-emperor-now-gardener—as he tries to stand up for his former teacher (for clarification: years ago, while Pu Yi’s was imprisoned, his teacher was referred to as “governor.”)

In response to Pu Yi, a teenage “Red Guard” zealot screams in his face:

“Join us (in the persecution of teachers), Comrade, or f— off!”

Next, the students force Pu Yi’s former teacher to his knees and demand that he “confess his crimes.” Amazingly, he refuses.

Pu Yi then chimes in, shouting:

“But he is a teacher! A good teacher! You cannot do this to him!”

… before Pu Yi is violently subdued by the student fanatics.

Anyway, this scene is all happening AGAIN, and it’s happening HERE in the Vergara case courtroom, and soon will in countless more “Vergara” courtrooms to come. It’s a less intense version, to be sure, but THE overall situation is the same:

we know we have kids—directed by and empowered by evil adults with an evil agenda—enthusiastically persecuting their innocent teachers.”

In an article at, Stephanie Simon presents a gloomy portrait of the future of teacher unions.

At the outset, she acknowledges that the unions have been the target of “a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign portraying them as greedy and selfish.”

This campaign is funded by billionaires, millionaires, ALEC, powerful corporations (Koch brothers?), rightwing think tanks, and wealthy foundations, all of whom we must assume are noble and selfless, not “greedy and selfish” like those no-good, lazy, worthless teachers. And then there are the academics who receive lavish funding from the noble and selfless billionaires and millionaires to produce studies and reports about the greedy and selfish teachers and unions.

But, as Simon reports, the campaign seems to be effective, as union membership falls and revenues decline. As evidence, she offers poll numbers reported by Paul Peterson’s group at Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and “Education Next,” both of which support vouchers and charters and oppose teachers unions and are funded by the afore-named groups of billionaires and millionaires. The numbers may or may not be correct, but the source is not reliable since both PEPG and “Education Next” are part of the campaign to rid the nation of teachers unions. But Simon does not mention that PEPG is an integral part of the anti-union campaign.

Simon ends the article by concluding that unions only make matters worse if they fight back against the wealthy coalition that now seeks to destroy workers’ rights:

“And some analysts, even those sympathetic to organized labor, say the teachers unions risk alienating the public with their constant complaints about the conspiracy of wealthy forces arrayed against them and their defense of job protections like those found unconstitutional this week in California.

“It’s entirely possible,” Kerchner said, “that unions can turn public education into a bad brand.”

In other words, resistance is futile.

But many teachers would not agree at all. They don’t believe that the 1%–and those who are on their payroll–are fighting for civil rights and social justice. they believe that it is imperative to stand up for hard-working teachers and the children they teach every day. Teachers are not greedy and selfish. their unions are not wrong to stand up for the rights of teachers, which are under attack in many states. Accepting the claims and the rhetoric of the privatization movement is a recipe for losing public education and the teaching profession, not just losing the unions.

Read more:

Peter Greene doesn’t understand how the corporate bullies are celebrating their victories over teachers. He can’t understand how they lie about doing it “for the kids.” They talk about equity and social justice as they attack teachers’ hard-won rights, and they know they are making it up.

He writes:

“I mean, bloody hell, guys? Do we all have “stupid” written on our foreheads? Can you not even do me the respect of telling me convincing lies?

“It’s like talking to that kid in the third row who just punched another student in the face and is now sitting there smiling, laughing and saying “I never touched him” with that fish-eating grin that says, “Go on. I’m lying straight to you, and you’re not going to do anything about it because my dad’s on the school board and– oh yeah– you don’t have tenure.”

Peter Greene explicates for you what Arne Duncan really meant in his statement about the Vergara decision.

He concludes:

“God, just when I think the Obama administration has found every conceivable way to signal that they consider teachers vermin to be stepped on and crushed, they find one more way to drive that point home. At this point, I think the GOP would have to run a convicted ax murderer in order for me to vote Democrat in a national election. This is a whole new level of pissing on us while telling us it’s raining. This is a whole new level of disregard for the teaching profession– no, no, that’s wrong, because this is not disregard. This is assault. This is deliberate, lying with a straight face, cheering for the dismantling of teaching as a profession.”

Ira Shor describes our complex sustem, based on race, class, income:

“Teachers count only if their students count. To count in this society, kids have to come from affluent families; the teachers of those affluent kids are paid more and generally treated better. The vast majority of students in k-12 pub schls don’t count b/c they are poor, working-class, or lower middle-class, many not white, many first-generation immigrants. They need small classes and veteran teachers and lots of good food and warm clothes in winter and eye exams; we know what they get instead. The kids that count go to private schls and to pub schls in affluent suburbs. The teachers there are paid more b/c the families of the kids are richer. For the most part, these teachers are also treated with more regard. The private k-12 schls do NOT require their teachers to come out of teacher ed programs or to meet state certification requirements; they can pick and choose among many applicants. Some teacher ed programs are truly excellent despite this class-based hierarchy, despite being under-funded and over-regulated. Other teacher ed programs function as mediocre pipelines to mediocre school systems. The situation is fragmented b/c there are really 6-8 school systems in America–private independents, private religious, private special ed, public affluent, public working class, public poor, privatized charters, etc. Then, there is internal tracking in all schools which further separate elite segments from the general student group. It’s useful to clarify which sector of “American education” we are talking back b/c class and race differences affect schools so much.(Ted Sizer said 30 years ago, “Tell me the income of your students’ parents and I will describe to you your school.”) As long as poverty and inequality rule, schools for the bottom 80% will treat their kids and teachers largely with disregard and disinvestment.”

North Carolina’s Republican-dominated State Senate hates teacher tenure. They hate it so much that they are willing to offer nearly $500 million in higher salaries if teachers are willing to abandon their tenure.

Bear in mind that tenure in K-12 education is not a guarantee of lifetime employment; it is a guarantee of due process rights. Also note that until recently, North Carolina was thought to have one of the best school systems in the South. The state has–or had, at last count–more National Board Certified Teachers than any other state in the nation.

Why Republicans hate tenure so passionately is a mystery. There is no reason to believe that principals are itching to fire teachers. North Carolina has had such a large exodus of teachers from the profession and the state that wise policymakers should be worried about holding on to teachers, many of whom are demoralized by years of legislative attacks on them.

Stuart Egan, a National Board Certified Teacher in North Carolina, wrote the following letter in response to this latest move by the State Senate:

“North Carolina’s GOP legislators certainly appear to have paid attention in English class: The motif of “making a deal with the devil” is a common theme in many works of fiction and in anything they write concerning teachers.

“Sen. Phil Berger is championing a bill that would create substantial pay raises for teachers who relinquish “career status” and longevity pay for “professional status.” The salaries of teachers who do not surrender career status would remain frozen in a stagnated schedule. Career status is often referred to as “tenure,” but that is a nebulous term. Career status does not mean teachers are untouchable. The General Assembly has spun this word to make it appear that teachers have the same “tenure” as college professors. Not true. We can still be dismissed for not performing our duties or upholding standards.

“The past 10 years in NC educational policy is enough to tell us where this is going. Under the ABC plan from years ago, teachers in schools that achieved certain growth expectations would get bonuses. That system ran out of money several years before it ended, but the requirements for teachers did not change. The monetary “incentive” simply was taken away.

“When the state budget began experiencing shortfalls, teacher salaries were frozen. Many of us are making the same salary we did years ago, but now we have more students and more classes as well as increases in the cost of living. Consequently, North Carolina has lost many of its best, brightest and potential career educators. Between a lack of financial security and the near-constant disdain in which legislators hold us, there is little reason to stay.

“When the General Assembly tried a few weeks ago to lure teachers into giving up their career status early in exchange for a monetary incentive, the courts struck it down as unconstitutional. But what many in the general public may not know is that the state did not have the funds to finance that incentive past the first year. It would have had to remove the monetary incentive three years early.

“This is exactly what will happen in the proposed legislation introduced this past week. The General Assembly already faces a shortfall for next year, and the salary increase for those who give up their right to due process will be removed because the money does not exist.

“To look at this latest deal another way, it would cause North Carolinians to lose advocates for the public school system. In a time when the state budget siphons off money for a voucher program to promote privatized education and decreases the average amount of money spent per pupil, you need to have teachers speak up for students and schools. Removing the right to due process leads to those same teachers being afraid to do so for fear of reprisal.

“Whether you call it career status or tenure, the concept helps keep public education in the hands of the public. It is so valuable to public schools that Sen. Berger and others are willing to pay more than $400 million to take it away. North Carolinians should take note and wonder why our legislators want teachers hamstrung by either low pay or worry about keeping a job more than they want our students to receive the best education possible to prepare them – and North Carolina – for a modern and innovative job market.

“This teacher will not sell his soul, no matter how attractive the devil tries to make the package. There is too much at stake – for teachers, for students and for North Carolina’s future.”

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School
English Teacher, Career Status

After Stuart sent the letter above, he added this sad postscript:

Concerning the high teacher salary raises in NC tied to tenure forfeiture, I saw this in my local paper (Winston-Salem Journal) after I sent my previous letter. It seems that to fund these raises, Senator Berger pushed through a budget that “would cut financing for teacher assistants, classrooms teachers, administration and transportation to pay for teacher raises.” Therefore, the county school system would have to request from the county that loss of money to cover the positions lost. But the county commissioners cut the local school budget already. The result would be “the loss of more than 250 early grade teacher assistants and 28 classroom teachers, according to preliminary estimates from the district’s finance department.” That is devastating to the K-3, elementary level.

I have a child with special needs in kindergarten who happens to have Downs Syndrome. If his teacher does not have an assistant, then positive results will not be seen as quickly and effectively in his education. Interestingly enough, if I as a high school teacher (or his regular teacher in elementary school) take the salary increase and make a “deal with the devil,” I may have a direct impact on my own son’s education.

Public education should never be this cruelly ironic.

If this is happening in a place like Winston-Salem, imagine the effect on rural counties in North Carolina.


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