Teachers in Wisconsin warn public sector workers in Illinois: Billionaire Bruce Rauner will be your Scott Walker.
Valerie Strauss recapitulates the TIME magazine cover story. She notes that the AFT petition in opposition to the TIME cover has collected 50,000 signatures ( it is now up to 70,000). Strauss compares this current cover to the one featuring Michelle Rhee as the one who was likely to “transform education.” She didn’t. The achievement gap in D.C. remains the one of the largest (possibly THE largest) in urban America. And she also proved that it is not impossible to fire tenured teachers; she fired hundreds of teachers and principals.
Why pick on teachers? Is it because it is a female-dominated profession? Is it part of the tech millionaires’ dream of replacing live teachers with laptops and tablets?
TIME agreed to print some responses.
One was written by Randi Weingarten of the AFT, and I think she got it exactly right. We need to focus on recruiting, retaining, and supporting teachers. Schools in stressed districts are not getting the funding they need for the children they serve. We must do more to combat and reduce poverty and segregation.
Another was written by Lily Eskelsen Garcia of the NEA, and it has just the right tone of amazement and outrage:
A fabulous friend recently said to me, “I’m just so tired of the new national pastime – Beat up a Teacher.” She had seen the nasty cover of Time with a court gavel about to smash an apple (a good one by the way). She had seen the title she knew was a lie: It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. But I think what pushed her over the edge was the subheading: A group of Silicon Valley investors wants to change that.
The irony drips. The Wolves of Wall Street woke up one day and decided simultaneously that all the problems with American education could be solved by…firing teachers. Seriously? My dear friend could not even muster outrage. She was just tired. She saw prestigious Time as next up to bat in a long line of cheap swings at teachers. Time could have written about any number of ways to improve our schools–restoring school funding, actually ensuring equity, and ending the insane and costly No Child Left Behind testing regime, which has replaced real classroom instruction with tests, tests, and more tests. Instead, Time decided to write about tenure. They came to the astonishing conclusion that the one critical reform we must make is to make it easier to fire teachers.
Helen Gym, Philadelphia’s leading activist for public education, complains that the School Reform Commission wrongly canceled the teachers’ contract while failing to fight for funding from the state.
“Recently, I visited my brother-in-law at Radnor High School and was privileged to see him teach his ninth-grade English/civics class. When I walked in, his students were engaged in a debate about Plato and the notion of dissent versus rule of law in Athenian society. The students had finished reading John Stuart Mill and were getting their first papers back for revision. It was October 2nd.
“A few days later, I attended a parent meeting at Central High School, one of the city’s premier institutions. Dozens of ninth graders had spent their school year with substitute teachers who changed every week. The substitutes were put in place to relieve teachers leading classrooms with 40, 50, or even more students. For these ninth graders, school didn’t really start until October 8th, when permanent teachers were finally assigned to them.
“This is what a teacher’s contract was supposed to prevent.
“And it’s why the School Reform Commission’s move last week to tear up that contract is about far more than the dishonest suggestion of “shared sacrifice” and health care contributions.
“In an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer last Sunday, SRC Chair Bill Green asked you to believe that the SRC made a necessary move to reverse devastating budget cuts from the last two years. It’s disappointing that some of his central facts are plain wrong (just read this Public School Notebook article on the inaccuracies by the SRC and District). It’s ironic that Green claims any measure of high ground, when the SRC ambushed its own staff and the public in a backdoor move meant to limit public dialogue.
“As a member of City Council, Bill Green was both vocal and active in helping us document the devastating impact of the state purposefully underfunding Philadelphia’s public schools. The District could have sued for full, fair funding. They chose not to. Instead they are in court suing to offset Harrisburg’s failures by taking money from the very people we depend on to care for our children and keep their schools open and safe – and grossly overstating the difference the money will make.”
Read the article for the links and more about the looting of the Philadelphia public schools.
A journalist sent the following message about a previous controversy involving the author of TIME article on tenure.
Hi Diane — I understand that the cover of TIME is more strident than the article, but it rang a bell about an earlier controversy connected to the same writer.
The TIME reporter, Haley Sweetland Edwards, did a bizarre bash on S.F. Bay Area community colleges last year for the Washington Monthly that was rebutted by one of her main sources. The article got surprisingly little attention, and for that reason no one seems to have really dissected it, and I haven’t done that either.
It particularly bashed College of Marin, a low-poverty community college in suburban Marin County. I’m pretty sure but haven’t confirmed that the bash was largely due to a high number of students like my parents, now 87 and 91, who have taken ceramics, welding and music classes at College of Marin and have, gasp, failed to graduate or transfer to four-year colleges.
The article also bashed high-poverty City College of San Francisco, which has been threatened with losing its accreditation and has been fighting back with apparent success (and where I’ve also taken classes), but the College of Marin portion stood out as particularly bizarre.
The bash on Bay Area community colleges was a separate article accompanying a rankings feature in the Washington Monthly.
The article cited data from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE).
Kay McClenney of the CCSSE objected to the use of the data and refuted the article’s substance in a strongly worded letter posted after the article (you have to scroll to find it). Excerpts from McClenney’s rebuttal:
“Edwards’s article includes multiple errors of fact and misuses of survey data. …
“As has occurred in the past, the Washington Monthly created the magazine’s rankings in large part through misuse of data drawn from the CCSSE website and then manipulated in ways not transparent to the reader. The ranking method thus is based on an undisclosed calculation combining CCSSE results and IPEDS data. There are so many things about this approach that are statistically wrong that it is impossible to overstate how spurious the results really are.”
John Thompson, teacher and historian, explains here why teachers are beating up reformers. Shocking but true. Charters don’t outperform public schools unless they exclude low performers. Vouchers are sending kids to church schools that do not perform as well as public schools. Teacher evaluation by test scores is a disaster. The testing culture has demoralized teachers. The reformers have no idea how to “fix” schools.
“During the high tide of corporate reform in 2010, their scorched earth public relations campaign against teachers and unions was doubly effective because they all sang from the same hymnal. Since then, however, reformers’ failures to improve schools have been accompanied by political defeat after defeat. Now they are on the same page with a kinder, gentler message.
“Now, the most public message is that a toxic testing culture has mysteriously appeared in schools. As the Center for American Progress, in Testing Overload in America’s Schools, recently admitted “a culture has arisen in some states and districts that places a premium on testing over learning.” So, the reformers who made that culture of test prep inevitable now want to listen to teachers, and create a humane testing culture.
“As Alexander Russo recently reported, in Why Think Tankers Hate the Vergara Strategy, some indicate that the Vergara campaign against teachers’ legal rights is a dubious approach. I’m also struck by the number of reformers, who complain about unions’ financial and political power, and who seem to by crying that We Reformers Are Being Beaten Up by Teachers.
“Yes! Reformers Are Being Beaten Up by Teachers!
“I communicate with a lot of individual reformers who agree that test-driven accountability has failed, but they can’t yet visualize an accountability system that could satisfy their reform coalition and teachers. I repeatedly hear the pained protest that, Testing Isn’t Going Away.
“So, what alternative do we have?
“Talk about Low Expectations! Are they saying that a democracy can’t prosper without test and punish imposed from on high? Do they believe that families and students are just as feckless as teachers, and none of us will teach and learn without reward and punish regimes that toughen us up for economic combat in the global marketplace?”
TIME Magazine has a cover story called “Rotten Apples,” in which it falsely asserts (on the cover) that “It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher. Some Tech Millionaires May Have Found a Way to Change That.” Here is a link to the cover and a petition denouncing this slander.
This TIME cover is as malicious as the Newsweek cover in 2010 that said, “We Must Fire Bad Teachers. We Must Fire Bad Teachers. We Must Bad Teachers,” and the TIME cover in 2008 showing a grim Michelle Rhee with a broom, prepared to sweep out “bad” teachers and principals. (As we now know, Rhee fired many educators, but saw no significant gains during her tenure in office.)
This non-stop teacher bashing, funded by millionaires and billionaires, by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and even by the U.S. Department of Education, has become poisonous. Enrollments in teacher education programs are declining, sharply in some states. Experienced teachers are retiring early. Teaching has become so stressful, in this era of test mania, that our nation’s biggest teacher issue is recruiting and retaining teachers, not firing them.
Since when do tech millionaires know anything about teaching children? Why should they determine the lives and careers of educators? Why don’t they volunteer to teach for a week and then share their new wisdom?
Randi Weingarten is fighting back against TIME’s scurrilous cover. She is organizing a campaign to let TIME know that they have outraged and insulted America’s teachers. This bullying has to stop! Speak out! Tweet! Sign the petition! Write a letter to the editor! Organize a protest at TIME headquarters. Don’t let them get away with bullying teachers who earn less, work harder, and have greater social value than the writers at TIME or the tech millionaires.
Randi Weingarten writes:
From: Randi Weingarten
Date: Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 5:36 PM
Subject: Teachers aren’t rotten apples
Time magazine is about to use its cover to blame teachers for every problem in America’s schools. On Monday, Nov. 3, this cover will be in every supermarket checkout line and newsstand across the country—and it’s already online.
When I saw this today, I felt sick. This Time cover isn’t trying to foster a serious dialogue about solutions our schools need—it’s intentionally creating controversy to sell more copies.
We’re running a petition demanding that Time apologize. Will you help us spread the word by using the tweets below to call on Time to apologize?
This midleading @Time cover hurts teachers and damages the mag’s own credibility. Ask them to apologize! #TIMEfail
Why is @Time attacking teachers? This misleading cover is more about sales than truth. Demand and apology! #TIMEfail
.@Time should do the right thing and ditch the planned anti-teacher cover! #TIMEfail
Once you’ve tweeted, please sign the petition telling Time’s editors to apologize for this outrageous attack on America’s teachers.
The millionaires and billionaires sponsoring these attacks on teacher tenure claim they want to get great teachers into the schools that serve high-need kids. It’s a noble goal, but stripping teachers of their protections won’t help.
In fact, this blame-and-shame approach only leads to low morale and high turnover, making it even harder to get great teachers into classrooms. Just today, constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky wrote a fact-based argument that tenure protections help recruit and retain high-quality teachers! In fact, there is a strong correlation between states with strong teacher tenure and high student performance.
And Time’s cover doesn’t even reflect its own reporting. The Time article itself looks at the wealthy sponsors of these efforts. And while it looks critically at tenure, it also questions the testing industry’s connections to Silicon Valley and the motives of these players.
But rather than use the cover to put the spotlight on the people using their wealth to change education policy, Time’s editors decided to sensationalize the topic and blame the educators who dedicate their lives to serving students. The cover is particularly disappointing because the articles inside the magazine present a much more balanced view of the issue. But for millions of Americans, all they’ll see is the cover, and a misleading attack on teachers.
There are serious challenges facing our schools—tell Time that blaming teachers won’t solve anything.
When we work together instead of pointing fingers, we know we can help students succeed.
In places like New Haven, Conn., Lawrence, Mass., Los Angeles’ ABC school district and many others, union-district collaboration is leading to real change2.
Instead of pitting students and teachers against each other, these districts are showing how we can build welcoming, engaging schools by working together to give kids the education they deserve. As a result of this collaborative approach, once-struggling schools all over America are turning around.
When we collaborate, we’re able to recruit AND retain high-quality teachers, and reclaim the promise of a high-quality education for every student.
And when we work together, we can also change tenure to make it what it was supposed to be—a fair shake before you are fired, not a job for life, an excuse for administrators not to manage or a cloak for incompetence.
But instead of a real debate, Time is using the cover to sensationalize the issue so it can sell magazines.
Tell Time magazine to apologize for blaming teachers in order to sell magazines.
We need to have a substantive, facts-based conversation about the challenges our schools face and the real solutions that will help educators and kids succeed.
Help us tell Time that blaming teachers isn’t the way to help struggling schools.
1 “Teacher Tenure: Wrong Target”
2 “Four Solutions to Public School Problems”
Whenever a superintendent speaks truth to ower, their voice should be heard. What is more, they deserve to be honored. I am glad here to honor William G . Hochgesang, Superintendent, Northeast Dubois public schools and to add him to our honor roll as a champion of public education. The politicians are hurting children, hurting teachers, and decimating public education. Thank you, Superintendent Hochgesang, for speaking up with courage and clarity for our kids and our democracy.
This letter from Superintendent Hochgesang came from another Indiana superintendent, Dr. Terry Sargeant:
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Over the weekend, I received this letter through the Indiana Small & Rural Schools Association. It was written by Dr. Bill Hochgesang, Superintendent of Northeast Dubois Schools, to his school board the evening he asked them to approve their new teacher contract. In a nutshell, I have not heard the circumstances currently faced by Indiana Public Schools expressed any better. This letter is beginning to go viral in Indiana and I thought you might enjoy reading it. I agree with Bill 100% and I only hope that the political pendulum in Indiana will begin to swing the other direction soon – for the sake of our kids.
Dr. Terry R. Sargent
Jennings County School Corporation
34 W. Main Street
North Vernon, Indiana 47265
“All children are gifted; some just open their packages earlier than others.”
– Michael Carr
I am recommending to the board this evening that they ratify the contract as presented. This contract for the second year in a row has a zero increase . Our Classroom Teachers Association does this fully knowing that zero isn’t in reality a zero. It is a negative as our insurance rate increased by 4% in 2013 and increased 8% for the 2015 school year. In the past there was a salary schedule for teachers that had an increment in place for experience . That option was taken away two years ago by our legislature. So this is a true pay cut for the second year in a row. Along with our teachers, all employees of Northeast Dubois have taken this same cut in salary the past two years . It saddens me to have to ask for this and accept this. But that is the reality of what we are currently dealing with.
It does however give me great pleasure to work in this school system where kids truly come first. Our school corporation is a system where people honestly put students’ needs ahead of their own as evidenced by these actions. Our school corporation is innovative as shown by our technology, our atmosphere and, of course, our success . Still we are never satisfied and continuously work to improve. Our school system strives to provide students the opportunity to pursue their passions and excel in many areas! Our school system is one where there is no talk of cutting any programs or enlarging class sizes in order to save money-yet. I worry about this trend continuing. Staff has shown their dedication to students by forgoing pay in order to protect these programs and class sizes.
I only wish I lived in a state where legislators cared as much for students as we do at Northeast Dubois. In 2009, $300,000,000 was taken from the education budget and never returned. Yet we all read in the news that the state has a $2,000,000,000 surplus. One doesn’t have to be a math expert in order to see where 75% of that money came from. Take five years times $300,000,000 and it is crystal clear that $1.5 Billion has come at the cost of the schools in Indiana. Many schools have turned to referendums, just to make ends meet. In fact, after the May election one out of every three schools in Indiana has run a referendum on the voting ballot. Yet, what do we as educators get from our legislators? We get higher standards, more accountability and forced competition, competition for money that is not increasing. We are forced to compete for students, as the money follows the child . We get forced competition where students are ranked, teachers are ranked and schools are ranked. Ranking always produces winners and losers, there is always a top and always a bottom, and in education there cannot be any losers! The education of every child in this state is critical. I am a firm believer that every school in this state is giving their best effort! I wish the legislators would truly see what great things are happening in our schools and begin to support our efforts . I feel they have forgotten the essential role education has played in the success in their own lives and that an education is the most important aspect in leaving a legacy for our children. Public education as we know it is in grave danger. Our legislators need to know just how much we care about our schools and we need their support!
Northeast Dubois is surviving like every other school corporation in this state; we are surviving by a slim margin. We are surviving because of our dedicated, caring and giving people. To all Northeast Dubois employees: Thank you for truly putting kids first! I am humbled to be a part of this school corporation. And hopefully better days are ahead! Let’s keep working together for all our students!
William G . Hochgesang,
Superintendent, Northeast Dubois ”
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey seems to be running for the Republican nomination for President in 2016. If he does run, please remember his repeated attacks on public school teachers. Jersey Jazzman documents them here.
JJ shows how he fabricates his claims against teachers. He flat out makes up the facts. He accused the New Jersey Education Association of running billboards accusing him of “hating children.” That was supposed to make NJEA look cruel and paint him as a victim of this vicious and unscrupulous union. Except it wasn’t true.
This man should not be President. He is reckless with the truth. He is not trustworthy. He has no respect for teachers. Don’t forget.
Rick Bobrick is a veteran teacher in New York. He is sick of the punitive high-stakes testing that he is compelled to administer. This regime is child abuse. He is a conscientious objector. He thinks that teachers should have the same right to opt out that parents and children have. He knows if he refuses to give the tests, he puts at risk his job, his income, and his pension. He asks a simple question: why not a law protecting the rights of teachers to refuse to do what they know is wrong? Why not give teachers the right to be conscientious objectors?
Here is his letter:
I teach 8th grade science in a small city school district located in the Mid-Hudson Valley. I am in my 35th year in the classroom, the last 13 of which I have been required to administer punitive, high-stakes tests in math, ELA, and science. Last spring I hit the wall and I have decided that, in all good conscience, I no longer want to participate in this detrimental practice. However, like most teachers, I am unwilling to risk losing my income, or my pension, or my even my reputation, in order to take a principled stand against this new wave of failed reform. On the other hand, why should I have to risk anything in order to stand against what I know is wrong?
No teacher or administrator should be required to ignore their moral and professional compass out of fear of violating NY state law. No teacher or administrator should have to comply with educational policies more harmful than helpful to children. No teacher or administrator should be forced to remain complicit to policies that are tantamount to educational malpractice at best – and child abuse at their worst. No public school educator should ever submit to inaction out of fear of jeopardizing their professional standing, personal well-being, or their family security. The fear, the veiled threats, and the de-facto intimidation are all very real concerns for many NY public school professionals. There is something deeply wrong with a system in which teachers and principals are afraid to act in the best interest of children.
My proposed solution to this professional dilemma is to try to establish legal protections for any NY educator who no longer wishes to comply with New York’s RTTT commitment. Following the advice of my local NYSUT representative, I have drafted a resolution that would establish a ‘Conscientious Objector’ status for any NY teacher or administrator who wants to abstain from the malpractice of high-stakes testing. I have never been politically connected, nor a particularly strong supporter of our union. All I ever wanted to do was to teach science and provide my students with the best learning opportunities possible.
I will be working with a group of like-minded citizens to convince lawmakers to support this initiative. If this proposal is submitted as a bill and passed into law it would provide legal protection for any teacher or administrator who wants to opt out of the testing debacle. As has been seen over the past two years, parents can ‘refuse the test’ without fear of legal consequences. Nearly 60,000 students across New York State sat out the 2014 round of Pearson testing, supported by parents who wanted nothing to do with tests designed to fail students and intimidate their teachers. It is my strong belief that teachers and administrators should have the same right of refusal, a legally protected right to, ‘refuse to test’. Passage of this resolution into law may be viewed by some as a long shot; if successful it would open a very messy can of worms for Governor Cuomo, the Board of Regents, John King, and the State Education Department.
Regardless of the end result, the message this sends to our political leaders could open some eyes and help bring this federal testing regime to an end, sooner rather than later; one more nail in the coffin of New York’s Regents Reform Agenda. At the very least it would let parents, boards of education, and the media get a better handle on just how much opposition there is from the educators who are being forced by the power of state and federal law to pursue education policies and practices that we know are inflicting harm to our students. Teachers whose voices are being silenced by fear of professional retribution, would be muzzled no longer. To sit back and continue to be a part of this testing madness, in my view, makes us part of the problem – ‘refusing to test’ makes us part of the solution.
If we do nothing, this whole mess will eventually die a slow death by a thousand cuts, collapsing under its own weight – but not after a generation of students has been short-changed by the educational blinders of the Common Core and damaged by the pressures of punitive, test-based reform and all the negative labels that come with it. Parents, college professors, and others will be pointing fingers and asking very serious questions as they try to make sense of what happened to our collective professional voice if the majority of us remain complicit through inaction. The ‘Nuremburg Defense’ doesn’t cut it for me. Burris, Farley, Naison, Lee and a small handful of other strong voices from within the trenches of New York’s schools are not enough. We have a choice to make, nearly half a million strong: defiance or compliance?
If adopted, the Conscientious Objector legislation will make it possible for the majority of NY educators to speak out against the misguided attempts of reformers; changing fearful whispers into strong and meaningful action. By granting the right of refusal, this proposed resolution would also help to restore our status as professional educators whose judgment and trust are valued by the communities we serve. Teachers, coaches, supervisors, principals, and parents, please keep your ears to the legislative track and when the time comes lend your support at the local and state level. Together we can make this happen and bring the joy of learning back to our children’s classrooms.
Madeline Scotto loves to teach. She has been teaching math at St. Ephrem’s in Brooklyn since 1954, when she was 40 years old. Now she is 100, and the school will celebrate her birthday. She coaches the math bee now. She loves teaching.
She graduated from St. Ephrem’s in 1928, then graduated from St. Joseph’s College for Women, where she majored in French. After having given birth to five children, she decided to try her hand at teaching. And she has never stopped, other than to transition from full-time to part-time. St. Ephrem’s is a Catholic school. Catholic schools are dying out because of the competition from tuition-free charter schools that claim to offer the same climate but can’t because they do not have the moral foundation of Catholic schools.
A few days ago, I attended a memorial celebration for my friend Sister Nora Ashe at the Oratory of Saint Boniface in downtown Brooklyn. All of the students and about 40 of the Sisters of St. Joseph from far and wide were there. The school used to enroll 1600 students; now it enrolls 300. It rented some of its empty space to a charter school. Sister Nora was tragically killed a year ago when a box truck slammed into the back of her car at a red light. Sister Nora loved to teach and loved to learn. She was 65. She never got a VAM score. No one was trying to measure her effectiveness; they knew she was effective by the spirit in her classrooms. St. Joseph High School named its technology room the Sister Nora Ashe Technology Center. Nora is the kind of sister who would have taught to 100 or even longer, had she survived.
Isn’t it great to be able to teach without being harassed by state and federal officials and mandates?