Archives for category: Teachers

Dawn Neely-Randall was taking a class training her to recognize bullying. Suddenly she realized she was the victim of bullying–by the state of Ohio. She plans to sue the state and welcomes others to join her.


She writes:


Neely-Randall vs. State of Ohio
Peer Discriminatory Harassment:

This past week, as I was completing an online training module assigned by the Ohio Department of Education via a required harassment/bullying video (so we could know the state laws within the classroom context), the definition of harassment given included to 1) have an intent to harm; 2) be directed at a specific target; and 3) involve repeated incidents. I learned that legally, harassment focuses on how the behavior affects the victim.


As a teacher in the State of Ohio, I suddenly realized that I am being harassed by the Ohio Department of Education’s own legal definition as well as from legislators who are passing harmful laws to hurt me as well as many harmful laws that hurt my students, which totally, unequivocally knock the wind right out of me.

The state is asking teachers to educate and test students in ways that many of us do not feel are morally correct or developmentally appropriate. For instance, very shortly, some districts will test 3rd graders (a test they must pass in order to pass third grade; another form of harassment) for three hours straight. So, eight year olds will sit at a computer for THREE HOURS STRAIGHT taking a high-stakes (high-pressure situation) English Language Arts test so they can pass third-grade, even though, they are only beginning their second quarter of third-grade. Harassment, much?

In addition, “preliminary” raw data were finally released by the state from PARCC. A woman could have conceived, grown, and birthed a baby in less time than it took for students to have received their scores from the state based on their LAST year’s testing. Oh, wait. Students STILL have not received their scores and the school’s “grade card” is not due out until at least the end of January. Yet, the media are already reporting these raw, preliminary numbers, which, in effect, label teachers and schools. Districts in poverty zip codes are looking like failures whereas schools in more affluent zip codes look like they have better teachers. The scores also do not account for if a student made tremendous growth from the time he/she walked into the classroom and instead, labeled the child as “Basic” or “Limited” aka, failures. Labels hurt. Labels don’t go away. Labels on children are a form of harassment.

Our Ohio Department of Education is a mess. State superintendents do not stick around long. Even when I called the ODE to ask about the new AIR tests, the person answering the phone asked me, “Is that spelled A-I-R?” Um, yes, yes it is. It seems that everyone there should know PARCC and AIR by now; especially at the state level.

The charter scrubbing scandal is also a mess. Urban public schools are constantly being told they are FAILING and being threatened with state takeover while the Ohio Department of Education falsified charter information not only to the citizens of the state, but also to the United States Department of Education, and continued to label schools and did nothing to press charges against the person(s) falsifying the data, even though teachers in another state are IN JAIL for doing the same thing.

And on and on and on and on. (I haven’t even mentioned the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System where it took me eight hours to write one lesson plan and a process in which teachers are labeled at the state level based in large part on test scores.)

Bottom line: I feel harassed by the Ohio Department of Education. I feel abused. I feel heartsick with what they are asking us to do in education and the hoops they are requiring us to put our students through. When a special ed student pulls out every eyelash during testing, that’s a problem. When a fifth-grade student breaks down blubbering during a high-states test, that’s a problem. When a child on an Individualized Instruction Plan calls the State of Ohio HIMSELF (with his parents’ help) THREE times because he feels so convinced  about how wrongly he is being treated and the Ohio Department of Education does not have the decency to return his message, that’s a problem.

And during the high school years, in which it should be a student’s glory days and life preparation time, they are putting students, who are already being slammed by society, under tremendous stress and pressure by making teenagers the guinea pigs for their constant shifting of requirements for graduation.

Yes, I feel harassed and finally, I’m going to do something about it.

I will be looking for an attorney to represent me in a lawsuit against anyone harming the children, and thus, me, on my watch.


If you, too, feel harassed, please feel free to send me a note. (I’ve already heard from several people.)

If you know of an attorney, legislator, anyone who can help me to get this process off the ground, I’d really appreciate it.

I will be calling my union for help first. However, this is not on behalf of my amazing school or my supportive superintendent. This is on behalf of me, myself, and I. The state has crossed the line many times in the past few years, but their Peer Discriminatory Harassment online module taught me that I, too, am a victim of abuse. I will use their words in this lawsuit, not mine.

On behalf of teachers all across the state, I’m not going to let them blacken my reputation or bruise me any longer. Feel free to join me.
Stay tuned.



Dawn Neely-Randall

John Thompson reviews here the report by the Network for Public Education on 15 years of Gates’ experiments on the lives of other people’s children and teachers.


“During the last fifteen years, we educators have each endured corporate school reform in our own way. It has not been fun. Sometimes competition-driven, data-driven micromanaging has been downright frightening. It has sometimes looked like our profession, our unions, and public education values were on the verge of being destroyed by market-driven, test-driven reform. The Network for Public Education (NPE) has just done us a great service in connecting the dots, and showing how many of the mandates we have endured are different verses of the Gates Foundation hymnal, and how they created the same discord.
“The NPE’s feature report, “Around the States with Bill Gates,” begins with the aptly titled “Gates Funding Elevates Teacher Voices that Sing Their Tune” by Anthony Cody. It ends with Carol Burris’s post mortem on the Gates’s “costly and ineffective adventure” with the Hillsborough, Florida teacher evaluation system. In between, ten contributors describe the Gates follies that have occurred in their postage stamp of the education world.
“In 2012, Anthony Cody engaged in a five-part exchange with representatives of the Gates Foundation. Cody presented a thorough, well-researched, review of the scientific evidence ignored by the foundation. The Gates participants largely repeated their same old talking points. Shockingly, the Gates debaters closed the series with a temper tantrum.


“Perhaps, they saw the debate as a high-stakes confrontation and they were embarrassed by the extent of their defeat. Or, maybe the foundation didn’t expect a mere teacher to assemble and concisely present such an overwhelming case against its policies.
“Back when Cody touched a nerve with the Gates Foundation, it was already clear that its ill-conceived teacher evaluation gamble would be extremely risky, but it was possible to believe that the foundation could learn how to listen to practitioners. That hope was shattered as $23 million of Gates grants were made to elevate “teacher voices.”


“Unfortunately, their scripted voices were elevated in order to counter ours.
“As the foundation explains, when Gates creates new organizations or funds existing ones that align with its clearly defined agenda, they “‘develop proposals that align with our strategic priorities and the organization’s focus and capabilities.'” For instance, Cody notes, “‘Teach Plus has received $17 million in Gates grants, and has worked to train teacher leaders, who then show up to testify before public hearings in support of the elimination of tenure, or the use of test scores for teacher evaluations.”
“Later, Carol Burris concludes with a review of the Hillsborough failure. Previously, there had been a close working relationship between district officials and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. Moreover, the national AFT has long been committed to rigorous teacher evaluations (through peer review) and professional development (through National Board Certification.) It was working collaboratively with Gates and Hillsborough.
“The rank-in-file teachers pushed backed at the Gates methods, however, complaining about the negative effects of merit pay and evaluation by test scores on their teaching. The president of the union local, who had once enthusiastically embraced the early Gates efforts, “told the School Board that the system she helped put into place is considered by teachers to be ‘demeaning and unfair’ and that teacher voice and input has decreased.” After Hillsborough spent half of its $300+ million in reserves in order to pay for the costly failure, and with another $50 million in cost overruns expected, the district pulled the plug on the Gates experiment.
“It was not just teachers who were ignored in Florida. Parent activist Colleen Wood, and other local community groups, were invited to join the United Way’s Committee for Empowering Effective Educators. But, the grant “prescribed exactly how many teachers, non-profits, and businesspeople were to be on the committee.” Wood quickly realized that the purpose of the process was to “rubber stamp” the Gates’s preferences.
“The Hillsborough debacle was consistent with what was witnessed by Denver teacher Aaron Lowenkron, who concludes that the Denver version of the Gates model “is mechanistic, punitive, and opaque.


“Essentially, it has become a tool of the administration to generate teacher churn and keep our union weak.”
“The Hillsborough and Denver setbacks are also consistent with my summary of the Tulsa experience where the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association says that the district and the union had a good relationship until Tulsa “became indebted to groups who pushed for charter schools, tying tests to teacher evaluations and other so-called ‘reforms’ that do not improve public schools or provide a true picture of a teacher’s worth and ability.” After becoming the 6th largest recipient of Gates funding, in 2015, Tulsa had to scramble to fill 499 of its 3,000 teaching positions, which is up from the normative turnover of about 300
“Similarly, Newark student, Tanaisa Brown, explains that due to Gates-style reforms, “Teachers are forced to teach to a test without proper resources, and are being evaluated by scores that hardly take into consideration multiple other factors that affect students’ ability to learn such as poverty and unique learning types.” Moreover, students are “pushed out of their very own school buildings and have to wonder if they will even have a school to attend for the upcoming school year.”


“The NPE also gives today’s recipients of Gates funding a historical perspective. As Mike Klonsky recalls, when Gates came to Chicago in 2001, its mission was “small schools.” When educators and small-schools activists asked whether they could be on the board that would administer the grants, they were told, “That would be like allowing the workers to run the factory.” Also at the beginning of the Gates efforts, Curt Dudley-Marling witnessed the funding of organizations such as National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Dudley-Marling explains how the NCTQ illustrates Gates’s “antipathy toward traditional teacher education.”


“”He saw the truth in Diane Ravitch’s explanation that it was founded “with the explicit purpose of harassing institutions of teacher education.”
“The NPE’s Bill Mathis and former TFA teacher, Gary Rubenstein, further remind us that it was not always clear that corporate reform policies would be pushed in such a ham-handed manner. The late AFT President Al Shanker advocated for charter schools as a place for innovation, not as a mechanism for charter management systems to assist in the mass closures of schools. Before 2005 or so, Rubenstein did not see TFA as morphing into “a massive public relations campaign whose main accomplishment was fueling its own growth and power.” Since then, TFA has allowed its fund raising message to be “weaponized by uninformed, but rich, meddlers like the Gates Foundation.”



“Bill Gates famously said of educators, “They have to give us this opportunity for experimentation.” Gates and his foundation (which largely staffed the leadership of Arne Duncan’s USDOE) did not wait for the results of preliminary experiments regarding their hunches about teacher quality before they were codified into law in almost all of the nation’s states. When after-the-fact research discovered that their teacher evaluation experiments would cost about 2% of school budgets, Leonie Haimson reminds us, Gates made a snap judgment that class size should be increased to pay for it. Since then, he has “continued to fund unconvincing studies attempting to prove that class size reduction is not cost effective; … Singlehandedly, he has financed an entire industry in anti-class size screeds from shoddy think tanks.”
Haimson also recounts the failure of InBloom which “was designed to help achieve Bill Gates’s vision of education: to mechanize instruction by plugging every child into a common curriculum, standards and tests, delivered by computers, with software that can data-mine their responses and through machine-driven algorithms, deliver ‘customized’ lessons and adaptive learning.” Despite “the demise of inBloom,” Haimson notes, “the Gates Foundation has not given up their attempt to supplant real personalized learning with learning through software and machines.”
“And that bring us to Susan DuFresne’s personal account of the impact of Gates policies on teachers in Washington. An informal poll determined that 16 of her 18 fellow K-2 teachers have considered quitting. She describes how Gates’s data-driven pedagogy “stack-rank(s) children like his Microsoft employees.” She concludes that, “These reforms have stripped humanity from what was once a whole-child system. Schools are now more segregated, more punitive, often joyless test-prep factories designed to sort, rank, and cull human beings for Gates’ profit.”
“The teacher in me would like to stress one of DuFresne’s points that may not be obvious outside the classroom. She protests, “The first two months of school is now 1:1 testing vs building relationships and establishing routines.”
“There is no time when the genuine teacher voice is more important than when kicking off the school year. That is the time when we must be fully devoted to leading a class worthy of our students’ dignity.


“We can’t serve two masters. We can’t fully commit to the building of trusting and loving relationships, and to engaging instruction, while subordinating ourselves and our students to the metrics loved by Gates. Teaching requires authenticity and it’s hard to tell your kids that you place their welfare above all – except when you have to obey the billionaire’s mandates. We can’t challenge our kids to fully and honestly embrace learning, while warning them that our quest for knowledge will be routinely interrupted by corporate micromanaging.
“It’s bad enough when high school teachers like I was are torn between two masters. I can only imagine the angst felt by a kindergarten teacher like DuFresne as she helps launch children on that first stage of schooling and the pursuit of a real education. Sadly, if we want to protect our ability to speak with our genuine teacher voice in class, we must raise it now to defeat the Gates mandates and it’s faux “teacher voices.”



Bret Wooten, a businessman in a small town in Texas, was puzzled about why his wife, a second grade teacher, spent so much money on her students. At tax time, he reminded her that the purpose of working was to make money, not to rack up expenses that were not tax-deductible.


She invited him to visit her classroom. And he did.


“When I came by that next afternoon, I found myself surrounded by the children doing projects and I jumped right in. I dropped by the school as often as I could, so the children were used to me at this point. But one young man always kept his distance. After the kids had gone, I asked Michelle why. She then revealed her dark secrets, the histories of the children in her classroom.


“These kids endured everything from true poverty to sexual abuse. Her list of questionable deductions started to make sense: granola bars, orange juice, cereal, milk, jackets, band aids and endless school supplies.


“The young man that would not approach me? She told me about him last. He had endured the worst. All the men in his life injured this child in ways that still bring tears to my eyes and a rage in my soul.


“Then she said: “He needs shoes.”


“The only thing I could mutter was: “What size?”


“These days we think we will find the answer to so many questions within the pages of a book or the folds of a standardized test, but this is the reality of many children in America. I wish stories like this were on the news or touted by politicians.


“Unfortunately, acts of kindness are far too common in education and thereby deemed unnewsworthy. If these stories were aired, maybe we could actually solve some problems instead of just pointing them out.”



In today’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof offers a list of “gifts with meaning” for Christmas giving.


He can’t avoid making a gratuitous slap at public education.


He writes:


We’re seeing painful upheavals about race on university campuses these days, but the civil rights issue in America today is our pre-K through 12th grade education system, which routinely sends the neediest kids to the worst schools. To address these roots of inequality, a group called Communities in Schools ( supports disadvantaged kids, mostly black and Latino, in elementary, middle and high schools around the country.


I’m all for sending money to Communities in Schools, but it is an outright lie to say that our K-12 education system “routinely sends the neediest kids to the worst schools.” Some of our nation’s most dedicated teachers and principals are working in schools in the nation’s poorest communities. The children they serve include disproportionate numbers who have disabilities and who don’t speak English. Many live in unsafe neighborhoods, seldom get routine medical care, do not have food security or even a home. Almost all so-called “failing schools” are located in neighborhoods that are racially segregated and impoverished. Why would Kristof smear the professionals who work there in a spirit of service?


I got an email from the celebrated children’s book author Jean Marzollo, who wrote that she was outraged by Kristof’s derogatory comments about the schools:


My anger came from what I thought was a sweeping insult to the people who work in his so-called “worst schools.” When visiting schools over the years as a children’s book author, I have met many wonderful teachers, principals, and other staff members in his so-called “worst schools” that serve our “disadvantaged kids, mostly black and Latino.” The word “routinely” is a bit insulting, too, because it implies that people in charge of schools don’t care.


I wish Mr. Kristof had said that “…the civil rights issue in America today is our pre-K through 12th grade education system, which for various legal and financial reasons sends our neediest kids to schools with the highest populations of poor kids. The fundamental problem of our neediest kids and our neediest schools is poverty.”


The civil rights issue of our time is to reduce poverty and eliminate segregated neighborhoods, so that all children have the opportunity to have a good life and the opportunity to go to a good school.


Of all the people writing for the New York Times today, Nicholas Kristof should understand the link between poverty and low academic outcomes.





Have you noticed that national commissions and panels of “experts” often have no working teachers? Consequently, there is a lot of grumbling about the lack of “teacher voice” in decisions affecting the classroom. Now a group of teachers has decided to do something about it instead of just grumbling.


They created a new organization called CAPE (Coalition Advocating for Public Education). They attend board meetings and represent the teacher voice. Silent no more! What if teachers did this in every school district? This is an example of the power of organized voices. They don’t need to sign up every teacher in Nashville. They just need a few teachers who are dedicated, articulated, and fearless. And they need to follow through. They will make a difference.


Here is their inaugural press release from last week:
Nine teachers will be using their teacher voices to speak before the Metro Nashville Public Schools board of education on Tuesday, Nov. 10. Their topic will be the impact of high-stakes testing on their classrooms.
The teachers are a part of a campaign recently launched by the Middle Tennessee Coalition Advocating for Public Education (CAPE).
“When you tell teachers to ‘use their teacher voice’, it means to speak loudly and clearly, with the kind of authority that brings immediate order to a chaotic classroom,” said Amanda Kail, an English as a second language teacher at Margaret Allen Middle Prep and one of the founders of CAPE. “As teachers, we deal with the consequences of chaos brought into our profession by the so-called reform movement. Many people are talking about the best way to fix schools, but our policy-makers need to remember that we are the experts in education, and it is time to voice that expertise for our profession, our students, and our communities.”
The coalition was started by a handful of public school teachers and regional organizations who advocate for public schools, teachers, and students. CAPE is planning to recruit more teachers to speak at the school board meetings every month. They are also planning other events, such as a panel exploring the impact of “Zero Tolerance Discipline” on November 17.



Ah, just what we needed: A new “reform” group to tell teachers what they should do and when and how and where and etc.

Peter Greene warns his readers to beware of a new group called #TeachStrong.

He points out that among the 40 organizations endorsing this initiative are the usual reformster groups, like Teach for America, the NCTQ, RelayGSE (the “graduate school for charter teachers), and a host of other familiar names, in addition to the anomalous AFT and NEA.

Peter reviews the new group’s goals and writes:

So, mostly the same old stuff. Make life harder for teachers in concrete ways (licensure, tenure) but try to offset it in vague ways (more time, and tools, and PD). And as always– absolutely nothing about giving teachers a strong voice in the direction of their profession.

No, the promise here is that we will ask more of you and do more to you.

And yet there are some odd features here. For instance, much of this is not exactly in tune with the TFA five-weeks, no-real-license plan. But in her WaPo piece, Lyndsey Layton reports that TFA basically has no intention of changing what they do, they just thought this seemed like a cool initiative to join. Really? Why would they sign on to this if they didn’t support the stated goals? Hmmm…

The assumption of this new group is that teachers are the problem. They need to be fixed. Once again, no mention of working conditions or of the conditions that harm children’s opportunity to learn.

He suspects that this foreshadows Hillary Clinton’s education plank.

Peter concludes that having a seat at this table is not good for teachers.

Mercedes Schneider calls our attention to Ann Marie Corgill’s letter of farewell to her students. As you may recall, Corgill is Alabama’s teacher of the year for 2014-15. She decided to resign after she was informed that she needed to get new certification to teach the grade she was teaching when she won the award. She had taught for 21 years in grades 1-6. Her salary check was delayed for two months. She got the message, and she resigned.


Here is a small part of her letter to her students:


Rules and regulations and certification requirements can separate us physically, but they will never be able to separate your hearts from mine. I will help you, learn with you, write you, and even talk on the phone with you (even though I hate talking on the phone).


I want each of you to always remember that YOU are more important than tests, scores, federal laws, teacher certifications, or hurtful words that others say. It’s your hard work, your never-give-up-attitude, your determination to become a team, your willingness to apologize and forgive others, and your character that matter most….not just now, but forever.


Please remember that I know what it is that makes each of you special and unique, and I want you to promise to continue to learn, live hopefully, and tell the complete and wonderful story of you. Once a Corgill kid, always a Corgill kid. Don’t ever forget that.


Julian Vasquez Heilig explains that he first started researching charter schools because of his encounter with KIPP Austin.

He planned to work with KIPP Austin on their problems with attrition of black male students. Then Oprah celebrated KIPP as just the right place for black students, and the collaboration and research project were dead.

Now he reviews Jim Horn’s book about KIPP from his perspective as a knowledgeable researcher. The new book is called “Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys Through “No Excuses” Teaching.”

KIPP is the most celebrated charter chain in the nation. It has received hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts and grants from foundations, individuals, and government.

Horn and his collaborators write about the perspectives of some 30 disillusioned former KIPP teachers.

Heilig writes that screaming at students is common practice in KIPP charter schools:

Why does KIPP encourage and/or allow these practices? Horn writes, school leaders relayed that “because of cultural differences, black students are accustomed to being screamed at…because that’s how their parents speak to them.” A KIPP teacher characterized the worst offender at her school as a “screamer, swearer and humiliator…..”


KIPP might also argue that they are the beneficiaries of widespread support in communities across the nation. It is very clear that KIPP benefits from powerful influential and wealthy supporters in government, the media, and foundations. Their no excuses approach to educating poor children has resonated with the elites in society and they have showered the corporate charter chain with resources for decades. So it may be surprising to some to read the counternarrative from KIPP teachers that is quite different than what you typically read in the newspapers, see in documentaries like Waiting for Superman, and generally experience in the public discourse. I proffer that the KIPP teachers’ counternarratives in Journeys should be required reading for all of KIPPs influential supporters. Why? Mutua (2008) explained the importance of counternarratives in society:

In their broadest formulation, counternarratives are stories/narratives that splinter widely accepted truths about people, cultures, and institutions as well as the value of those institutions and the knowledge produced by and within those cultural institutions. The term counternarrative itself clearly highlights its essence in expressing skepticism of narratives that claim the authority of knowledge of human experience or narratives that make grand claims about what is to be taken as truth.

So what is the counternarrative that the current and former KIPP teachers? There is a saying that I often heard in Austin that if you visit a KIPP school you would become KIPPnotized— essentially very impressed by their approach. One of the KIPP teachers spoke to being initially impressed during her recruitment and then later discovering that KIPP was “hell.”

[A former teacher wrote:] There was so much about it that was so good and promising in the beginning, and I got hooked into that from the minute I saw the news piece on them… but the dirty little secrets are what you don’t know until you are in their trenches.

The KIPP teachers in Journeys detail a variety of working condition issues that created high levels of turnover specific to the KIPP model in their schools— too many to discuss here. One teacher compared her experience teaching in KIPP and a public school. She said she wouldn’t recommend teaching in KIPP and stated “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone who wanted to be a teacher for the long-term…It’s exhausting. It’s demoralizing.” You might be wondering: If the working conditions are as bad as the current and former KIPP teachers say they were, how could the charter chain campuses stay open? Journeys explains,

Without a constant infusion of new teachers to replace all those who burn out… KIPP would have to shut its doors… The role of Teach For America and programs based on Teach For America’s hyper-abbreviated preparation are crucial, then, for the continued survival of… KIPP….

In summary, Journeys is shocking— but expected considering what is known about KIPP’s “no excuses” culture. What makes this piece unique is the unprecedented interviews with current and former KIPP teachers across many schools and years in the charter chain. While many claim that KIPP is beyond reproach and is the shining star of charter schools, I submit that we should instead be asking whether KIPP can actually reform their reform based on the counternarratives provided by the KIPP teachers, or whether their approach is simply a pathological and abusive approach that the elites would never prescribe or allow for their own kids— except of course if they sent them away to military school.

This moving article by Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times is a tribute to Alan Kaplan, a high school teacher of the humanities, who died at the end of August.

Some 500 former students attended his funeral, driving or flying from wherever they were.

One week ago, very early Sunday morning, Harvard University graduate student Jimmy Biblarz boarded a plane and flew from Boston to Los Angeles to attend a memorial service.

He knew he would have to fly back to Boston later that evening, which made for a grueling day, but Biblarz never had a second thought about making the trip.

The provocative, maddening, abrasive, endearing, passionate, controversial Hamilton High School teacher who tormented, challenged and ultimately inspired him, had died. So Biblarz and hundreds of other students who got the same treatment from history and philosophy teacher Alan Kaplan crowded into the un-air-conditioned school auditorium on a blistering afternoon to pay their respects.

“Each of us spends our time on this Earth trying to ensure we are remembered in death. Mr. Kaplan, you won,” Biblarz said in his eulogy. “You produced hundreds of activists, organizers, scholars, therapists, teachers and thinkers. Your effects are exponential.”

Steve Lopez is one of the few writers for the L.A. Times (add Michael Hiltzik) who understands that teachers are more than test-prep automatons, that they enlighten and inspire in ways that can’t be measured.

“People don’t show up 20 and 30 years later to pay tribute to teachers who helped them do better on standardized tests,” fellow Hamilton High teacher Barry Smolin said at the service, a tape of which was made available to me. “We are here because Alan Kaplan did what all great teachers do. He clarified, he inspired, he awakened, he worked in ways that are unquantifiable.”

As I watched the tributes, I was reminded that from Los Angeles to New York, we have endured years of bare-knuckle battles but reached no consensus on how to improve public schools. Public education is shamefully underfunded, some say, while others insist money is not the answer. You can find equally rabid supporters and critics of charter schools, and the new Common Core curriculum is either a breakthrough or a curse.

But wherever you stand on any of that, we can all go to school on how a teacher managed to touch so many lives in such profound ways, loyal to both his convictions and his students even as his stubborn independence drew critics and even landed him in trouble at times.

Some students were intimidated by Kaplan. Some administrators and fellow teachers found him irritating.

He flat-out refused to teach Advanced Placement history, arguing that the curriculum was a memorization drill that allowed for neither true teaching nor learning.

When he died at the early age of 60, students came from everywhere to thank Alan Kaplan for changing their lives.

Measure that.

Alfred Chris Torres of Montclair State University has analyzed a common phenomenon: the high rates of teacher turnover in charter schools.

He says that “no-excuses” charter schools are both popular and polarizing because of their longer school days and school years, their strict discipline, their focus on college-prep, and their data-driven instruction. Yet they have high teacher-turnover, in some cases, one of every three or four teachers leaves every year.

He writes:

Why do so many teachers move on? Common explanations point to the intense workload, which can be as high as 60 to 80 hours per week. Others suggest that these school models often rely on Teach for America teachers who are likely to remain only for a short time. Such factors are important, but overlook more specific working conditions or school practices that influence teacher retention and commitment. To pinpoint such nuanced influences on career choices, my exploratory research uses data from in-depth interviews and survey responses from teachers working in a large charter management organization.

A general theme from my research is the importance of the disciplinary climate in “no-excuses” charter organizations. This climate affects teacher autonomy and, if the climate is dysfunctional, can further burnout in ways that prompt teachers to leave.

Especially in no-excuses charters, strict behavioral expectations mandate how students dress, enter a classroom, walk in the hall, or sit in class, and teachers are expected to enforce these expectations using explicit rewards and punishments, such as merits/demerits or adjustments in “paychecks” that allow students to purchase items from a school store. Supporters consider such close and intense monitoring of student behavior as helpful, while detractors believe that such strict expectations can be demeaning, and counterproductive to students’ overall development, no matter how much academic growth occurs.

As the debate rages, however, little attention has been paid to the impact of disciplinary practices on teachers and their career decisions. My research probes those effects, and my survey analysis reveals that overall teacher perceptions of the effectiveness of student disciplinary systems is an important predictor of rates of voluntary turnover. This is true even after other important factors are taken into account, such as teacher experience, workloads, and teachers’ perception of support from principals. Overall, I discovered that teacher perceptions of school disciplinary environments can affect their career choices in two important ways:

School-wide behavioral rules are considered critical to “no-excuses” schools, and teachers in some of these institutions have little input into the creation or adaptation of strict behavioral expectations, and enjoy little discretion to influence exactly how rules are applied. Experienced teachers, especially, can find such strict sets of rules frustrating because they undermine their professional autonomy. Or teachers may end up in conflict with school leaders on issues of how best to discipline or shape the behavioral socialization of students. When teachers feel such frustrations, as many explained in interviews, they may choose to leave.
Teacher burnout in “no-excuses” charters is often attributed to exhaustion from long working hours, but as psychologists understand, feelings of inefficacy can also lead to burnout. Some teachers I interviewed said they found it difficult to enforce detailed behavioral expectations throughout the day, leaving them feeling not very successful. For others, difficulties in enforcing school-wide rules and punishments led to increased student resistance and undermined student-teacher relationships. Since teachers value positive relationships with students, they may choose to leave if they feel good ties are undermined.

– See more at:


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