Archives for category: Teachers

Teachers have been the “collateral damage ” of the so-called reform movement. The reformers’ false claims and teacher-bashing is taking a predictable roll of some of the most talented teachers while discouraging young people from entering the profession.

This article explains why so many teachers are discouraged and how reformers disguise their nefarious intentions with lies.

Dora Taylor, parent activist in Seattle, writes:

“The self-designation of “reformer” by people who have never been in the classroom and have no actual training or experience in education is a smokescreen. What they are really after is profitability for their investor-owned charter school corporations that will deliver as little education for the buck as they think they can get by with.

“The public schools are losing well-qualified and experienced teachers who have made a commitment to our communities and dedicated themselves to teaching our children and and yet we are losing them in large numbers. Why?

“There are many reasons but for the most part has to do with the phrase “Education Reform”.

“The term encompasses charter schools and who teaches in those schools, the Common Core Standards, high stakes standardized testing, as well as the failed idea of merit pay for teachers….

“The teachers union is getting bombarded from two sides right now. First, by billionaires who would rather not see any unions in our country such as the Koch brothers, the Walton’s and corporate backed ALEC and from the other side by charter school enterprises who would love to have certified teachers but don’t want to pay a decent wage to hire them.

“With Race to the Top we had schools closing based on test scores and then many converted into charter schools and folks like Broad-backed Michelle Rhee who fired several hundred teachers, most of them minority women, basically on a whim.

“Then you have Common Core Standards and a battery of standardized tests, which make it difficult for a teacher not to teach to a test and thereby narrow their curriculum. This takes a lot out of a teacher who loves teaching, gets excited about their prepared curriculum, which is designed not only in terms of standard expectations but also to the students they are teaching. It destroys any creativity on the part of the teachers and students and makes teaching and learning a rote and tedious daily routine.”

Brett Dickerson of Seattle writes:

“For the last ten years now, a steady drumbeat of trash talk about teachers has made its way into the public comments about education. Experienced teachers are portrayed as lazy and incompetent, incapable of teaching students in any kind of adequate way.

“Teachers unions are pointed out as a telling sign that teachers know that they are no good and need “job protection” with tenure laws.

“None of these statements accurately portray the quality of teaching or the actual situation of most students who graduate from public schools. Why would these be circulated so widely?

“Not “education reformers”, but school raiders

“To understand the teacher brain drain we have to get the reality of what passes as “education reform” in the press and media. True reformers want to engage those who have the most experience in the classroom and in leading teachers as administrators.

“To achieve reform, there must be a collaboration and engagement of those who know what needs to be reformed the best. But that’s not what is going on, is it?

“That’s because those who call themselves “education reformers” usually are not. Instead they are those who want only to raid public funds taken by force as taxes and then converted to the wealth of investors who do not care about your children, only their own.

“The self-designation of “reformer” by people who have never been in the classroom and have no actual training or experience in education is a smokescreen. What they are really after is profitability for their investor-owned charter school corporations that will deliver as little education for the buck as they think they can get by with.”

Albert Camus won the Nobel Prize in 1957. Days later, he thanked his childhood teacher.

 

19 November 1957

 

Dear Monsieur Germain,

 

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honor, one I neither sought nor solicited. But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened. I don’t make too much of this sort of honor. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

 

Albert Camus

 

(Thanks to Bertis Downs for finding this lovely gem.)

Andrea Gabor wrote a piece referring to testimonials to Rafe Esquith by former students.

 

Now other Esquith alums have contacted her, and she reprints their reactions here to the LAUSD disciplinary actions against him. He has been suspended with pay, and his class trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was canceled this year.

 

One student writes about how Esquith changed her life; the other expresses his suspicions that administrators are out to get Esquith because he never followed orders. With all the national and international honors heaped on him, the LAUSD has conspicuously never celebrated his renown as a teacher.

 

 

An educator forwarded an email he received, inviting him to apply for a fellowship at Néw York Educator Voice-America Achieve. If accepted, he would gain training in writing opinion pieces, speaking at public forums, and becoming a voice for Common Core. The organization would help him to get invitations to national conferences as a speaker and to become a prominent voice for the profession, on behalf of Common Core.

Here is the invitation:

“Dear Colleagues,

“Happy summer!

“The application deadline for the New York Educator Voice Fellowship is this Friday, July 3rd. The Fellowship is a really great program for teachers and principals who are interested in education policy and looking to make a difference in their communities and across New York. Don’t miss this chance to help one of your favorite teachers take advantage of this opportunity.

HERE is a link to our application website where you can learn more about the program and submit a nomination.”

The program offers to give teachers “voice,” but the voice must be used to support the corporate reform narrative. This is no voice at all; it is hiring teachers and principals to endorse someone else’s agenda.

The program is paid for by Michael Bloomberg, the Harry and Leona Helmsley Foundation (“queen of mean”), and the Gates Foundation.

Imagine this great victory for teachers in New York: They will now be allowed to discuss test questions that have been released to the public!

 

Is this progress? No. Suppose teachers spot unreleased questions that are clearly wrong, poorly worded, confusing, incoherent. If they have not been released to the public, the teachers are not allowed to criticize them or call attention to errors.

 

Peter Greene wondered if the New York Times recognized the absurdity of its headline, which claimed that the state was going to “relax” the gag order.

 

He wrote:

 

 

See, now the state will allow teachers to discuss items on the test after they have been publicly released, whereas previously, teachers could only discuss test items after they had been publicly released.

 

The gag order protects Pearson. If the gag order prevailed, we would have never known about the nutty question on a Pearson test about “the pineapple and the hare.” That question was not publicly released. It became public not because of teachers but because students complained about it, and it leaked to the New York City Parent blog.

 

This “gag order” is insulting to teachers. It should be eliminated. Its only purpose is to protect the interests of the testing companies. They should release all their questions. No one will know which will be on future tests. If there are thousands of test questions available, students can use them to see what is expected of them. And if they are released, parents and teachers will have a chance to evaluate their quality. That may be what scares the testing companies most.

 

Take off the gag!

 

 

A reader posted these comments in response to Florida legislature’s passage of a law to offer a $10,000 bonus to new teachers with high SAT/ACT scores. The bonus is supposed to attract “the best and the brightest.”

Reader writes:

“Yes, districts will be able to lure in new teachers with higher SAT scores with $10,000 signing bonuses, but when the rigors of teaching every day sets in, Florida will see its $44 million walk right out the door. The biggest cliché at the moment is that one of the purposes of education is to create the lifelong learner, but why should students strive for higher education when their own teachers are not valued for achieving years of expertise, higher degrees, and national board certifications? What value is there to becoming educated and entering the teaching field when all you have to do is sit through a series of training sessions with Teach for America in order to teach the neediest and most demanding students who deserve the most attention? Once again, politics and government are wasting tax payer’s dollars.

“According to Education Week’s facts on Florida http://www.edweek.org/topics/states/florida/ there are 175,609 teachers in the state. The cap on this $10,000 bonus is 4,400 teachers in total which represents only 2% of Florida’s teaching population. If the program, goes over the 4,400, then each teacher will get less. The patient (public schools) is bleeding to death but don’t stop the bleeding – put a piece of toilet paper on a cut in the hope that this 2% will raise Florida test scores and graduation rates to new levels of achievement.

“I am in the process of getting my masters so that I can be even more effective as an ESL teacher despite the “stats” that the level of my education has no effect whatsoever on my students’ test scores. If that is true, why is Florida paying bonuses to draw in “smarter” people into the classroom with or without degrees? Why worry about smarts? If that’s the case, let’s just have any Joe Schmoe off the street teach our students. Maybe he will do a better job and not ask to be paid for his work and tax payers can keep their money!”

Florida passed a proposal to award $10,000 bonuses for teachers who are “the best and the brightest.” The cost: $44 million.

The awards would go either to teachers rated “highly effective” in raising test scores. New teachers would get the bonus if they had high SAT or ACT scores when they were high school seniors.

Florida eliminated bonuses for advanced degrees and for National Board Certification

The Atlantic has an interesting feature about teacher protests around the world. Most are about low pay, but others are about working conditions, lack of respect, and–in the United States, at least–the standardization of curriculum and testing that is eliminating teacher autonomy and professionalism.

What is interesting in addition to the substance of the piece is the fact that it appears on the website of The Atlantic. For many years, The Atlantic was firmly tied to the corporate reformers and could be counted on to give them plenty of space for their views. Recently, however, The Atlantic has published numerous articles that conflict with the privatizers’ well-honed narrative of failed schools that can be “rescued” by taking away teachers’ job protections or by adopting the Common Core or some other reformy nostrum.

I thought maybe the ownership had changed. It has not. It is still owned by David G. Bradley, who also owns the National Journal.

The Wikipedia page for The Atlantic contains this tidbit:

The Atlantic Media Company receives substantial financial support from the Gates Foundation through the National Journal ($240,000+) to provide coverage of education-related issues that are of interest to the Gates Foundation and its frequent partner in education policy initiatives, the Lumina Foundation.[37][38] Critics have suggested that this funding may lead to biased coverage and have noted the Lumina Foundation’s connections to the private student loan company Sallie Mae.[39][40][41] Gates-funding of the National Journal is not always disclosed in articles or editorials about the Gates Foundation or Bill Gates, or in coverage of education white papers by other Lumina or Gates Foundation grantees, such as the New America Foundation.[42]

According to the New York Times in 2010, David Bradley’s wife, Katherine Bradley, paid $100,000 for a public relations firm to help Michelle Rhee polish her image.

During contract talks earlier this year, Ms. Rhee turned to Anita Dunn, the former communications director for President Obama, to help with her image.

A gift of $100,000 toward her fee was paid by an education philanthropist, Katherine Bradley, the wife of the publisher David Bradley of The Atlantic Monthly and National Journal.

Now it is Ms. Dunn’s firm, SKD Knickerbocker, that is coordinating Ms. Rhee’s rollout of her new group. Whatever advice it may have given her to bring all sides together when she was a public official, she clearly feels unrestricted by that now.

Google Katherine B. Bradley and Michelle Rhee to see the many ties between them.

Yet The Atlantic is now publishing articles sympathetic to teachers. Very puzzling. Did someone at The Atlantic have a change of heart? Or mind? Or get informed? Would love to know more about how they switched their views, as expressed in what they choose to publish.

EduShyster has a fascinating report on the festivities in New Orleans, where the National Charter School Conference is meeting. The event was supposed to be a celebration of the complete elimination of public education in New Orleans, but something unexpected happened. A group of charter teachers from Ohio disrupted a session to ask a charter founder why he fired teachers for trying to organize a union at his schools.

Here is the backstory:

When is *disruption* not just a super cool buzz word but something that’s actually, well, *disruptive*? That would be when teachers at the National Charter Schools Conference in New Orleans ask the CEO of an Ohio charter management organization about firing teachers for trying to organizing a union at his schools—and using taxpayer money to pay the fine when he got caught. This went about as well as you might expect. And when security arrived, combing through the crowd for disruptors, that’s when things got really disruptive…
Our story actually starts long before the bon temps starting roulez-ing at this year’s charter conference in the Big Easy. In 2014, teachers at two I CAN charter schools in Cleveland decided to unionize in hopes of improving working conditions at the school, raising pay and reducing sky-high turnover. And when the school year ended, seven teachers who were leaders of the organizing effort, found themselves no longer working at the schools. Why? Because they’d been fired by school leaders, who, according to a federal complaint filed by the teachers, *led teachers to believe they were under surveillance and pressured teachers into revealing who was leading the organizing effort.*

But wait—it gets better (for realz)
The feds sided with the teachers, finding that I CAN was guilty of *interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees.* The order, similar to an indictment in a criminal case, also accused I Can of *discriminating in regard to the hire or tenure or terms or conditions of employment, thereby discouraging membership in a labor organization.* I Can founders Marshall Emerson and Jason Stragand, meanwhile, acknowledged that they’d like their schools to remain union free, then paid the $69,000 in backpay they were ordered to pay the fired teachers with tax-payer money.

At the National Charter School Conference in New Orleans, the CEO of I CAN charters was talking about his plans for growth, emphasizing the importance of “hiring, working with, and retaining good teachers,” when one of his teachers disrupted his presentation. She asked, “Um, how do you square that with firing a bunch of them when they tried to organize a union?” and a group of other charter teachers began handing out leaflets about the situation at I CAN. In no time at all, security guards were there to corral the disrupters, which wasn’t all that easy.

EduShyster says that the teachers were “cage-busting,” to use Rick Hess’s term, people who bust out of their cages and take ownership of their schools.

This is all very funny, because the “reformers” have made a virtue of disruption. They call it “creative.” But apparently it is not welcome when they are the ones disrupted!

It is indisputable that standardized tests have a disparate impact on members of minority groups. Asian students perform exceptionally well on math tests. White and Asian students have higher scores than black and Hispanic students.

The same disparate impact is found on teacher tests as on student tests. Occasionally, an African-American teacher will sue, claiming test bias. They usually win. New York State’s teacher licensing exam attempted to be “more rigorous,” but making them harder to pass cemented the gap between the pass rates of different racial groups.

“On a common licensing exam called Praxis Core, a new test given in 31 states or jurisdictions that was created to be more rigorous than its predecessor, 55 percent of white candidates taking the test since October 2013 passed the math portion on their first try, according to the preliminary data from the Educational Testing Service, which designed the exam. The passing rate for first-time African-American test takers was 21.5 percent, and for Hispanic test takers, 35 percent. A similar gap was seen on the reading and writing portions.

“In New York, which now has four separate licensing tests that candidates must pass, an analysis last year of the most difficult exam found that during a six-month period, only 41 percent of black and 46 percent of Hispanic candidates passed the test their first time, compared with 64 percent of their white counterparts.”

This is a paradox, as two policy goals conflict: to diversify the teaching force and to make teacher certification exams more difficult to pass. It seems likely that aligning teacher exams with the Common Core will worsen the problem.

Read Alan Singer here on the uselessness of standized tests for teacher certification. He writes that such tests are notoriously unable to predict who will be a good teacher and who will be a bad teacher.

He recommends remedies, beginning with FIRE PEARSON.

He concludes:

“There is no foolproof way to evaluate prospective teachers or anybody else for that matter. People have bad hair days and perform below expectation. Life also interferes with work and sometimes people do not develop as expected. Just look at some of the high draft choices in professional sports. There needs to be support and evaluations along the way and alternative career paths. There is no inoculation or test that can be administered at the start of someone’s career that will ensure people will be great teachers down the road.”

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