Archives for category: Teachers

Arizona has a teacher shortage. School will open soon, and there are at least 1,000 vacancies.

The reason is not hard to find. Low salaries, which results in high teacher turnover. Arizona has been in the forefront of corporate reform. State policymakers want to hire “effective teachers,” but they don’t want to pay a middle-class wage.

“And the situation is likely get worse, with 25 percent of the state’s roughly 60,000 teachers eligible to retire within the next five years, said Cecilia Johnson, the state Education Department’s associate superintendent of highly effective teachers and leaders.

“Heidi Vega, spokeswoman for the Arizona School Boards Association, said there are many factors in play behind the vacancies but, “First of all, of course, the budget.”

“Vega said some teachers haven’t had a raise in six or seven years. The state routinely ranks near the bottom when it comes to per-pupil spending, she noted.

“Johnson said the average salary for a teacher in Arizona is $47,000 – well below the $54,000 national average – and an average starting salary in the state is $32,000.”

With a starting salary of $32,000, the state’s associate superintendent of “highly effective teachers and leaders” will not have many people to supervise.

Most teachers have not had a raise in years. Enrollments in teacher education programs are dropping. Some schools have no one to mentor young teachers.

“Once in the profession, Johnson said, teachers face greater accountability requirements and more demands of their time than they used to. Those demands “require them to take less and less time in teaching what they believe as experts should be taught,” she said.”

What do reformers think when they see stories like this, echoing the situation in many other states? Do they recognize a problem? Do they see a connection between the loss of teachers and their relentless campaign to belittle teachers and blame them for low scores?

Bill Gates used to boast that his data-driven approach to measuring teacher quality would produce an effective teacher in every classroom. How’s that working out, Bill?

TNTP, you may recall, was originally founded by Michelle Rhee .to recruit bright young staff for inner-city schools. In Tulsa, they took responsibility to turn around a troubled school. Their efforts failed.,

Teacher and historian John Thompson tells the sorry story. It begins with high hopes and boasts.

“At the beginning of the school year, after replacing 3/4th of the school’s faculty, McClure School Principal Katy Jimenez said, “I have never experienced a vibe and energy like we have right now.” Jimenez said, “The team has come together in an amazing way. My returning teachers gave up their summer to build a team they wanted to be a part of. Their investment is very deep. We are exhausted but so excited.”

“The principal borrowed a line from the corporate reform spin-meisters known as the TNTP and praised a second-grade teacher, Paige Schreckengast, as “an irreplaceable.” Ms. Schreckengast was featured the story’s photograph.”

Tulsa World reporter Andrea Eger “reports that even in this high-profile restart, “two vacancies went unfilled for much of the year because of a lack of applicants.” I’m not surprised by that, however, because many or most of the best teachers have heard the jargon before and many refuse to participate in such restarts because they know that the ideology-driven playbook is likely to fail. Neither am I surprised that “seven teachers bugged out mid-year; and then another seven left at the end of 2014-15.” [88% of the new teachers had less than three years’ experience.]

“The irreplaceable also left.

“Now, Tulsa says that the district officials learned from mistakes made in McClure’s faculty restart. The principal, Jimenez, says that she will no longer accept Teach for America candidates. According to Eger, Jimenez is balancing her remaining optimism with “a brutal, unrelenting reality.”

When will the so-called reformers understand that reviving troubled schools is hard work that requires experienced teachers with a long term commitment? When will they understand that disruption and chaos never saved a school or helped children?

An earlier post today described No Nonsense Nurturing as training teachers to be robots.

Here is a video by its developers. It is indeed interesting, especially the product endorsement by Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP. Probably the product reflects the KIPP style.

A reader in Los Angeles sent this reflection on LAUSD’s demand for Rafe Esquith’s personal financial history.

“This whole thing getting really wacko.

“Can an employee—under threat of being fired—be compelled by his employer to turn over private
information such as this—i.e. 15 years of tax returns, loan documents, monthly bank statements?

“I mean, why stop there? Why not demand all your private diaries or journals? All your computers with all the personal data, internet activity, emails etc.? How about your
medical records? Your private written correspondence?

“This is especially ridiculous in this case, as the employer refuses to divulge the foundation for such a demand, or the suspicions, or the
testimony/evidence that warrant this demand to give up one’s privacy?

“And again, THESE INVESTIGATORS ARE NOT AGENTS OF ACTUAL LAW ENFORCEMENT!!! They’re
retired LAPD detectives working as bureaucrats in a public school district!!! WHO THE HELL DO THESE GUYS THINK THEY ARE???!!!

“In your own life, if a past employer — New York University? or whomever? — sicced two investigatorson you who demanded this of you, what
would you have done?

“I would have been left utterly speechless. Could this even be possible in the U.S.?

“Whatever happened to the Constitutional right to privacy?

“This is as at least as bad as quid-pro-quo sexual harassment—i.e. “have sex with me or you’re fired”—in its enabling of the employer to use the threat of losing one’s job, livelihood, income, etc. as a way to take away one’s basic civil liberties and innate human dignity.

“This is way bigger than Rafe’s case.”

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post tells the story of LAUSD’s relentless investigation of celebrated teacher Rafe Esquith.

Having first pursued a lead about Rafe referring to nudity (based on a scene in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”), then explored a 40-year-old claim that he abused a boy in a Jewish summer camp, now the investigators are poring through his financial records.

Here was the offense that led to his suspension:

“The next day, Esquith learned the truth: A school staffer had reported to administrators that Esquith made a joke about nudity that she thought might offend students and their parents. Esquith had read to his students a passage from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in which a character called the king comes “prancing out on all fours, naked.” Esquith reminded the students that the district did not fund the annual Shakespeare play, and if he could not raise enough money “we will all have to play the role of the king in Huckleberry Finn.”

Asked to apolgize, Rafe did. But the investigators were not satisfied.

This sounds like “Les Miserables,” with Rafe as Jean Valjean. Not sure who is playing Inspector Javert.

Laurie Gabriel, a teacher with nearly three decades experience, decided that she had to do something to fight back against the absurd attacks on teachers.

 

The first thing she did was to create a documentary to explore the critical issues of the day. It is called “Heal Our Schools,” and it offers practical advice that most teachers would vigorously agree with. In her video, she interviews teachers, students, and a few outsiders (like me). The people she spoke to talked about what matters most in teaching and learning, which she would say is to encourage students to find their passions and pursue them. Her first recommendation, by the way, is to reduce class size so children can get individual attention when they need it.

 

The high point of the film, in my estimation, was when she spoke to some vocal critics of teachers. She invited them to teach a list of vocabulary words to ten students, and they accepted her offer. The scenes were priceless. The students were restless; one put his head on the desk. Announcements on the public speaker interrupted the lessons. When one of the “teachers” reprimanded a student and told him that when he was in the Army, he would have gotten 50 push-ups for his behavior, another student piped up and said, “We’re not in the Army.” After their students took their tests, Laurie gave them feedback about their performance. They were less enthusiastic about grading teachers by their students’ test scores and even seemed to be more respectful of the skill that it takes to teach middle schoolers.

 

The second thing she did was to take her documentary on the road, showing it to interested audiences. Her current schedule starts tonight in Wyandotte, Michigan. You can see her other stops listed below. If you live in one of these cities or towns, please show up and bring some friends.

 

July 21 WYANDOTTE MI (Detroit area)- 7:00 at Biddle Hall, 3239 Biddle Ave.
July 22 CLEVELAND – 7:00 at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church
July 23 PHILADELPHIA – 7:00 at the Ethical Humanist Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square
July 24 WASHINGTON DC – 8:00 at the Holiday Inn Washington Capitol, 550 C Street SW
July 26 – JERSEY CITY – 7:00 pm at the Jersey City Union Building, 1600 W. Kennedy
July 28 NEW YORK CITY – 2:30 pm at the Actors Theatre Workshop, 145 W. 28th Street, 3rd floor
July 29 RAYNHAM MASS. 6:00 pm at the Massachusetts Teachers Regional Office, 656 Orchard Street 3rd floor
July 30 PORTSMOUTH NH, 7:00 pm at the Women’s City Club, 375 Middle Street
August 3 – GRAND BLANC, MI – 6:00 at the Grand Blanc Mcfarlen Public Library.
August 9 DENVER – 1:00 pm at the Highlands Ranch Public Library, 9292 Ridgeline Blvd in Highlands Ranch

 

If you don’t live in one of those locales and want to see “Heal Our Schools,” contact Laurie at aspenquartet@hotmail.com

 

Perhaps you could arrange a showing in your community.

Emily Richmond at The Atlantic reports on the exodus of teachers from Kansas.

“Frustrated and stymied by massive budget cuts that have trimmed salaries and classroom funding, Kansas teachers are “fleeing across the border” to neighboring states that offer better benefits and a friendlier climate for public education, NPR’s Sam Zeff reported.

To be sure, this is a tough time for the Sunflower State, where funding shortfalls forced a half-dozen districts to shorten their academic calendars, and teacher jobs are being advertised on billboards. But it’s hardly an outlier. Las Vegas, home to the nation’s fifth-largest school district, is undergoing a particularly brutal struggle to recruit, and keep, enough new teachers for the upcoming academic year. (After all, how many superintendents have been reduced to zipline stunts to draw attention to a hiring crisis, as was the case with the Las Vegas district’s Pat Skorkowsky?) And it doesn’t take much to find stories of teacher shortages in Arizona and Indiana, among many others….

“One solution: Residency programs that provide new teachers with intensive mentoring, coaching, and support for their first few years in the profession are gaining in popularity. But an underlying issue is that fewer people are opting to become teachers, and when they do, about half will quit within five years. Indeed, in last year’s Gallup poll, the percentage of people who said they didn’t want their children to become teachers jumped to 43 percent from 33 percent a decade earlier.”

The so-called reform movement has succeeded in making teaching an undesirable profession. Not only are teachers quitting, unable to live on meager salaries, but the number of people who want to be teachers has sharply declined. This fits the agenda of the reformers, who want to replace teachers with computers, encourage the retirement of costly experienced teachers, and turn teaching into a low-wage, high-turnover job rather than a profession.

According to the latest report, the Los Angeles district administration has abandoned its investigation of a 40-year-old complaint against super star teacher Rafe Esquit alleging shoving or sexual abuse and is now poring through the financial records of his independent group, the Hobart Shakespeareans. Esquith has not been informed about the charges against him.

 

The LA School Report says:

 

Now, the investigation is turning toward Esquith’s nonprofit group which is independent from LAUSD and is run by an independent board of directors. Esquith gets no salary from the Shakespeareans, and in fact donates thousands of dollars of his own money to the group, which was started because of cuts in the arts by LAUSD.

 

The group teaches students how to perform Shakespeare plays, and has been profiled by CBS, Time, Washington Post, PBS and other national media outlets.

 

The recent request for documentation came from Scheper Kim & Harris, a law firm outside of LAUSD.

 

“These investigations become self-fulfilling prophecies,” Meiselas said. “This is a program that has changed people’s lives.”

 

Actors such as Ian McKellen, Hal Holbrook, John Lithgow and Michael York have visited and praised the Hobart Shakespeareans, and donated money to the group. On its website, 17 groups and individuals have pledged $10,000 or more to them, including William McClatchy, the Roth Family Foundation, Peter and Helen Bing and The Vanguard Group. At least 19 others have donated $5,000.

 

None of the students or parents involved with the Hobart Shakespeareans has complained about Esquith, who was awarded Disney National Outstanding Teacher of the Year, among other awards. Because of his “teacher jail” status, the dozen sold-out performances planned this year were canceled, as well as a July trip to Oregon for a Shakespeare Theatrical Festival.

 

This is a bizarre situation. The sooner LAUSD winds it up, the better for all concerned.

Super star teacher Rafe Esquith has filed a class action lawsuit against the Los Angeles school system. He is represented by a super star lawyer, Michael Geragos.

“High-profile attorney Mark Geragos has notified LAUSD that he intends to file a class action lawsuit about the so-called “teacher jails” that could involve hundreds–and potentially thousands–of past and present teachers.

“The required notice for the class action lawsuit was stamped and received by the school board on June 22, and 45 days from that date the suit will be filed, according to Ben Meiselas, an associate of Geragos & Geragos who is representing noted educator Rafe Esquith, who was taken from his classroom earlier this year and placed in teacher jail, pending an investigation on a variety of issues.

“The letter, obtained by the LA School Report, deals mostly with the Esquith case, but it also gives notice of a class action complaint “on behalf of all teachers, during the applicable statue of limitations period, who have been denied procedural and substantive due process by LAUSD.”

“The notice says: “It is anticipated the composition of the relevant class will be comprised of at least several thousand current and former LAUSD teachers who have similarly been deprived of due process, and have endured arbitrary process, undefined investigations, indefinite stays in teacher jail, and capricious classroom removals.”

“The issue is an especially volatile one with LA Unified, which has been severely criticized over the years by the teachers union, UTLA, for what union officials say is a capricious and unfair discipline system. Tensions were especially acute during John Deasy‘s years as superintendent, making the elimination of teacher jail a prime rallying cry of Alex Caputo-Pearl‘s run for the union presidency last year and the union’s subsequent campaign for a new labor agreement with the district.”

There is an unprecedented exodus of teachers from the schools of North Carolina. Pay has been stagnant for years, and the legislature keeps passing budget cuts. Nearly 1,000 teachers quit in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district. Local officials worry about replacing them.

 

The following letter expresses the anguish of teachers in North Carolina. Somehow I missed this letter when it first appeared in 2013. It went viral, and you will see why. The sad fact is that the situation has grown worse in North Carolina for teachers during the past two years. The legislature and Governor doesn’t think about holding on to experienced teachers. They don’t even care about investing in career teachers. They killed the successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, which prepared new teachers over a five-year period in college and graduate school. They put millions into hiring the temps of Teach for America, who will stay for two or three years, then leave. Salaries in North Carolina are near the lowest in the nation. It is hard to remember that North Carolina was once considered the most progressive state in the South, known for its outstanding universities and K-12 education. I wonder how “reformers” feel about belittling teachers and driving experienced teachers out of their state or their profession.

 
Letter to the NC General Assembly: I Can No Longer Afford to Teach

 

July 25, 2013 <http://makingourway.net/2013/07/25/letter-to-the-nc-general-assembly-i-can-no-longer-afford-to-teach/&gt; by lrkf <http://makingourway.net/author/lrkf/&gt;
Dear members of the North Carolina General Assembly,

 

The language in this letter is blunt because the facts are not pretty. Teaching is my calling, a true vocation, a labor of love, but I can no longer afford to teach.

 

I moved to North Carolina to teach and to settle in to a place I love. My children were born here; we have no plans to leave. I reassured my family in Michigan, shocked at my paltry pay and health benefits, that North Carolina had an established 200 year history of placing a high value on public education and that things would turn around soon.

 

When I moved here and began teaching in 2007, $30,000 was a major drop from the $40,000 starting salaries being offered by districts all around me in metro Detroit, but it was fine for a young single woman sharing a house with roommates and paying off student loans. However, over six years later, $31,000 is wholly insufficient to support my family. So insufficient, in fact, that my children qualify for and use Medicaid as their medical insurance, and since there is simply no way to deduct $600 per month from my meager take-home pay in order to include my husband on my health plan, he has gone uninsured. We work opposite shifts to eliminate childcare costs.

 

The public discourse on public assistance is that it is a stop-gap, a safety net to keep people from falling until they can get back on their feet. But as I see no end in sight to the assault on teacher pay, I will do what I have to do to support my family financially. We never wanted or expected to live in luxury. We did, however, hope to be able to take our little girls out for an ice cream or not wonder where we will find the gas money to visit their grandparents. And so, even though I am a great teacher from a family of educators and public servants and never imagined myself doing anything else, I am desperately seeking a way out of the classroom, and nothing about education in North Carolina breaks my heart more.

 

I will make no apologies for saying that I am a great teacher. I run an innovative classroom where the subject matter is relevant and the standards are high. My teaching practice has resulted in consistently high evaluations from administrators, positive feedback from parents, and documented growth in students.

 

I realize that no one in Raleigh will care or feel the impact when this one teacher out of 80,000 leaves the classroom. I understand. However, my 160 students will feel the impact. And 160 the next year. And the next. My Professional Learning Community, teachers around the county with whom I collaborate, will be impacted, and their students as well. Young teachers become great when they are mentored by experienced, effective educators, and all their students are impacted as well. When quality teachers leave the classroom, the loss of mentors is yet another effect. This is how the quiet and exponential decline in education happens.

 

Higher teacher pay may be unpopular, and I am aware it is difficult to see the connection between teacher pay and a quality education for students, so I will try to make it clear. Paying me a salary on which I can live means I can stay in the classroom, and keeping me in the classroom means thousands of students over the next decade would get a quality education from me. It’s that simple.

 

While I appreciate that Governor McCrory is advocating for a 1% raise for teachers in the coming school year, it is simply not enough. For me, that is $380, which after years of pay freezes, does not cover the negative change in my health coverage and copays. It does not cover the change in the cost of a gallon of milk, a gallon of heating oil, or a unit of electricity. It is not enough. A sobering fact: even a 20% raise would fall short of bringing me up to the 2007 pay scale for my current step, and that is in 2007 dollars.

 

My students deserve a great, experienced teacher. As a professional with two degrees and four certifications, I deserve to make an honest living serving my community and this state.

 

Respectfully,

 

Lindsay Kosmala Furst

 

————————————–

I was very afraid to write this letter. People have strong feelings about several of the topics herein, these things tend to take on a life of their own in the internet age, and “going public” means, of course, that when I go back to school next month, I may have to face students who know these quite personal details of my life. While I would not be leaving teaching as a statement or protest of any kind (what I really want to do is teach), I realized that the silent turnover that would happen serves no purpose at all, and that I need to at least let someone know. I’m not sure what kind of reckless abandon overcame me when I went ahead and sent the letters to both the General Assembly and the Raleigh News & Observer <http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/07/22/3049030/teachers-say-lawmakers-are-forsaking.html&gt;, but I knew that once it was out, there was no getting it back.
I feel like I have come out of secrecy. My cards are on the table. This is the reality of being a young teacher in NC right now. We expect recent college grads to suck it up and deal with low pay for a year or two. We expect that at 30, however, young teachers may be starting families or wanting to buy houses. The fact is that those of us who began here in 2007 are only making a few hundred dollars per year more today than when we started, and our benefits have been slashed, negating even that small increase.

 

With a heavy heart, I have realized that if I want to remain in the classroom, I will have to leave the state. If I want to remain in this state, the place that I chose to be my home, I will have to leave the classroom. At the same time, this advocate of public education is left wondering what will be left for my children when they start school. I can’t express how deeply saddening it is to think that about my own field.

 

Since this was reported earlier this week, I have received many messages of encouragement. At least a dozen are from other mothers in my position, teaching full time with children on Medicaid and/or WIC, the nutrition assistance program for women, infants, and young children. They thanked me for telling their story as well. So many are afraid to stand up and speak. The public negativity directed at teachers right now is overwhelming, and it is no surprise that many do not want to enter the fray. I cannot blame them. But since I already have, I will do my best to represent them as well.

 

Thank you for your support.

 

———

Update 1: WOW! I am overwhelmed by the response I have received. Thank you, thank you. Your support is incredible. Thank you for sharing your own stories here, as well. I am reading every single one of them.

 

Let me say this: While I appreciate difference of opinion, I will not be approving abusive comments. If you see one that has slipped by, please let me know. Thank you.

———-

Update 2: You guys. Honestly, you bring tears to my eyes. I’m heartbroken to see so many of you feeling the same way. If you want to leave a comment, please scroll to the very bottom where it says “Leave a Reply.”

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