Archives for category: Teachers

Pittsburgh teacher Mary King said she would not give the state tests to her English language learner students, and she didn’t.

 

She was “the first and only” teacher in Pittsburgh to refuse to give the test. She is a Teacher of Conscience. I wrote about her here.

 

“Under state requirements, ESL students — also known as English language learners — who have been in the U.S. less than a year don’t have to take the PSSA in English language arts, but they do have to take the PSSA in math and science. They can have certain accommodations, such as use of word-to-word translation dictionaries without definitions and pictures on some of the exams.

 

Ms. King, who is in her 26th year and is retiring this school year, said not all students get upset, but she recalled one student who had to take the math test her first week. “All she knew was ‘hello,’ ‘good-bye,’ ‘thank you.’ She cried the whole time.”

 

Mary King wrote a comment the the newspaper in response to the article. She wrote:

 

Teaching in PPS has been wonderful because it has challenged every part of me – mind, heart, and spirit. I appreciate Eleanor Chute writing this story. I hope it illuminates, in a small way, concerns many educators have about corporate-driven state mandates (many!) that conflict with what we know about children and learning. Also positive, the letter from Ms. Spolar states: “The District will explore fully the accommodations available to English language learners and anticipates further review of the regulations in response to advocacy pertaining to these testing issues.” I do believe our district wants what is best for our students and hope that the voices of my colleagues are heard by our administrators and our school board of directors. In my most Pollyannaish view of the world, I would love to see PPS become a leader in the pushback that is gathering steam against corporate reforms that are decimating public education. As always, follow the money!

 

Since she is retiring, she won’t be punished. She should get a medal.

 

She gets a medal. She joins the big honor roll as a champion of public education.

Thousands of teachers marched in Seattle to demand better funding for the schools.

In Newark, hundreds of students marched and blocked traffic to protest the destruction of their public schools

Vicki Cobb, a prolific writer of science books for children, is offended by the simplistic idea that education practices can be “scaled up,” just like manufacturing processes. Standardized testing is the quintessence of “one size fits all.”

She writes:

“Let me explain why. The very nature of “standardized” testing runs counter to the work of educators and to the notion of America as a haven for the individual worth of each human being.

“There are certain professions that are considered “high touch.” Nursing, for example, is about patient care and “care” is the operative word. Nurses deliver human kindness to people who are not at the top of their game. A patient may want a glass of water, but getting it from a robot is not the same as interacting with another human being. Teaching is another “high touch” profession. Children learn because of the relationship established between them and their teacher. They see each other every day. They come to know each other intimately. A good teacher reveals herself to her students — her passions, her standards, her caring for her students. Students at first do their lessons to please their teacher.

“A good teacher ultimately teaches students to do the hard work of learning to please themselves. This is how good students are made.

“Think about it. If you remember the teacher who had the most influence on you, I’ll wager you remember nothing of substance that you learned from him. You remember how he made you feel about yourself and about the learning process. You remember how you worked and how you achieved.

“Independent schools know this and value it. Each student is hand-crafted. There is no mass production and they don’t take the standardized tests. These schools pride themselves on turning out individuals who are “college and career ready.” They know there are no short-cuts, no efficiencies, no one-size fits all.

“In other words, you can’t “scale up” education. Learning is hard work that must be done by each individual. Fortunately, children are born to learn. Just watch what they accomplish the first two years of life. The mass-production of education to take the standardized tests puts the fear of failure into students and teachers. Make no mistake, learning doesn’t happen without failure. When you embark on learning a new skill, you’re not going to be very good at it when you start. Yet the emphasis from the culture created by the standardized test is that only correct answers are acceptable. This is insane! Schools should not foster a fear of failure; schools need to be a safe place to fail.

“Finally, I want to challenge the assumption made by the corporate reformsters that there is a bell-shaped curve of teacher effectiveness. They can’t believe how such a high-percentage of teachers can be evaluated as effective. So they need some kind of process that will produce a bell-shaped curve. Why not use student grades on the standardized tests to evaluate the teachers? How could they possibly think this will separate the wheat from the chaff? Is it because they come from a culture where an external motivator — money and all that goes with it — shapes the behavior of its participants?

“Teaching is a profession that is self-selective. Most people don’t have the patience or interest to spend every day with 25 eight-year-olds. Only a certain kind of person has the talent and drive to develop the myriad interpersonal skills needed to shape the development of these children so they become fourth graders. A great teacher is not motivated by money, assuming she is paid a living wage. Her reward is the light she sees in the eyes of her students. It is pay-back for her revealed humanity, sacrifice and hard work.

“Such workers are to be cherished and supported and yet, (can you feel how hard I’m pounding these keys as I write?) these absolutely wrong-headed politicians are doing the exact opposite by imposing strict rubrics and punishments that are demoralizing teachers, destroying a generation of students and indelibly scarring the ones (both students and teachers) who manage to hang onto their souls as they barely survive.”

Stuart Egan, a teacher of English at West Forsyth High School, wrote an article in the Winston-Salem, N.C., Journal explaining to readers why the reformster narrative about “failing schools” and “bad teachers” is wrong. He did it North Carolina-style, by comparing teaching to farming.

 

He wrote:

 

Last August, Business Insider published a report from the Brookings Institute highlighting the 15 cities where poverty is growing fastest in the nation. Greensboro-High Point tied for 10th, Winston-Salem tied for 8th, and Raleigh tied for 3rd with Charlotte.

 
Earlier this year, The Washington Post published a study by the Southern Education Foundation that found an incredibly high number of students in public schools live in poverty. And in April, the journal Nature Neuroscience published a study that linked poverty to brain structure. All three publications confirm what educators have known for years: Poverty is the biggest obstacle in public education….

 

North Carolinians know agriculture. We understand that any crop requires an optimum environment to produce the best harvest. Farmers must consider weather, resources, and time to work with the land. Since many factors which affect the harvest are beyond their control, farmers make the best of what they have; they must marry discipline with a craft. Teachers do the same.

 
But if the environment suffers and resources are limited, then agriculture suffers. Is that the fault of farmers? If variables surrounding the environment of public education are constantly being changed by governing bodies, then are teachers at fault?

 
Another fallacy with the rotten apple analogy is that the end product (singular test scores) is a total reflection of the teacher. Just like with farming, much is out of the hands of the education system. One in five children in North Carolina lives in poverty and many more have other pressing needs that affect the ability to learn. Some students come to school just to be safe and have a meal. But imagine if students came to school physically, emotionally, and mentally prepared to learn.

 
In some instances, resources vital to public education are siphoned off to other “factory farms” and for-profit entities. Just this past December, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that Rockingham County schools did not have enough money and were having to rob “Peter to pay Paul” just to keep public schools open and equipped with the basic supplies, even toilet paper. But at the same time, Sen. Phil Berger’s own son was slated to open up Providence Charter High School with taxpayer money in Rockingham County. Luckily, that endeavor never materialized, but the state’s Charter School Advisory Board just recommended that 16-18 new charter schools be financed by taxpayers.

 
The soil in which the public school system is rooted has been altered so much in the past decade that the orchard where teachers “grow” their crops has been stripped of much of its vitality. Look at the number of standardized tests, curriculum models and teacher evaluation protocols thrown at public schools. And those will change again with Race to the Top money running out.

 
We are treating the symptoms, not the malady. We are trying to put a shine on the apples by “raising” graduation rates with new grading scales. It is analogous to constructing a new white picket fence around an orchard and thinking that the crop will automatically improve.
But our elected officials can help or at least remove the obstacles for those who can.

 
The General Assembly can invest more in pre-K programs. They can stop funding for-profit charter and corporate-run virtual schools. They can expand Medicaid so more kids come to school healthy. They can reinstitute the Teaching Fellows program to keep our bright future teachers here in North Carolina. Then they can give decent raises to veteran teachers so they finish their careers here.

 

 

This is a wake-up call to the “reform” industry. For the past 15-20 years, they have been telling us that the biggest problems in education are low expectations, bad teachers, teachers’ unions, tenure, seniority, and the need for competition and accountability.

The nation’s top teachers, the people who are the best teachers in their states, don’t agree.

According to a survey of the nation’s teachers of the year, the biggest obstacles to student success today are family stress and poverty. We need a new reform movement that focuses on the real problems of our society, not the fake problems that generate profits for the education industry.

Lyndsey Layton reports in the Washington Post:

The greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students have little to do with anything that goes on in the classroom, according to the nation’s top teachers: It is family stress, followed by poverty, and learning and psychological problems.

Those were the factors named in a survey of the 2015 state Teachers of the Year, top educators selected annually in every U.S. state and jurisdictions such as the District of Columbia and Guam.

The survey, to be released Wednesday by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc., polled the 56 Teachers of the Year, a small but elite group of educators considered among the country’s best, on a range of issues affecting public education.

Asked to identify the greatest barriers to student academic success, the teachers ranked family stress highest, followed by poverty, and learning and psychological problems.

Why don’t Congress and the states listen to the experts?

Seth Sandronsky and Duane Campbell respond to an article in The. Sacramento Bee that blamed Democrats and public school teachers for urban riots and uprisings.

They write:

“Public schools, teachers and their union lobbying efforts at the state Capitol are unable to address what really ails low-income households. There are too few jobs with livable wages in California. Nearly 1.3 million adults are officially unemployed, while California’s poverty rate is tops in the nation.

“At the same time, the Golden State also leads the United States in the number of billionaires – 131, up 23 last year, Forbes reports. We have an oligarchy amid broad-based poverty and inequality. Is this the fault of public education?

“Deindustrialization of Oakland, like that of Baltimore, creates a group of citizens who have no place in the mainstream. Police and prisons are their bitter fate in our new Gilded Age.

“Why are public schools, teachers unions and Democrats to blame for that?”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article20776800.html#storylink=cpy

This comment came from a teacher in Florida:

“Much as I feel for our NY colleagues, gaze south and see where it can all end up as we demonize the profession further. FL is an “annual contract” state.

“Every year I receive a “reminder” that I am an annual contract employee and will be “considered” for renewal of that contract by the district. The union is run by old contract “Continuing Contract” teachers pending traditional retirement and promotion, but the only ones free to speak under any hope of retaining employment. State law dictates that we cannot be provided anything but an annual contract. The district can then terminate, my word, without cause by merely not renewing. No reason is required for not renewing.

“Teaching is becoming a haven for those too foolish to seek employment elsewhere, dedicated, or those incapable of employment elsewhere, inept. It’s a terrifying mix.

“For FL: http://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/BillSummaries/2011/html/0736ED”

The American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association collaborated on a survey of teachers that revealed enormous stress among teachers.

Says the article in Yahoo:

“It sounds like the worst job ever. Employees complain about little autonomy, constant stress, being forced to implement new workplace demands without adequate training or institutional support to carry them out. As new recruits, nearly 90 percent were eager to get to work; by the time they’re veterans, more than three-quarters of them say the thrill is gone.

“Welcome to the world of your child’s classroom teacher.

“A new survey of 30,000 educators by the American Federation of Teachers found a broad swath of complaints about the job, including unfunded mandates such as the Common Core curriculum standards and high-stakes achievement tests, as well as negative headlines—and finger-pointing—about failing schools and the black-white achievement gap.

“At the same time, however, surprisingly few say they’re ready to walk away from the Promethean board and leave the classroom.”

The survey found that:

Only 1 in 5 educators feel respected by government officials or the media.
Fourteen percent strongly agree with the statement that they trust their administrator or supervisor.

More than 75 percent say they do not have enough staff to get the work done.
Seventy-eight percent say they are often physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.

Eighty-seven percent say the demands of their job are at least sometimes interfering with their family life.

Among the greatest workplace stressors were the adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development, mandated curriculum and standardized tests.
The survey shows the need for a scientific study.

The AFT has called for a federal study.

http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/worklifesurveyresults2015.pdf

http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/ltr-randi-duncan-howard-051415.pdf

________________________________

This website, called “KnowYourCharter” is powerful. It dispels the myth that charter schools are superior to public schools. A few are, but most are not. Even in some of the lowest-performing, most impoverished districts in the state, the public schools outperform many charter schools.

 

You can plug in the name of any school district in the state and see how the public school district compares to individual charter schools. They are compared by such factors as state funding per pupil, overall state performance rating, average teaching experience of teachers, and how much money the charters extract from the public system.

 

It takes only a moment to click the button. Open the link and you will learn more in a few minutes than by reading tomes about charters.

Mary King, a teacher in Pittsburgh, will not give the tests to her English language learners. She is a conscientious objector. She believes the tests hurt her students.

She writes:

“I am an English as a second language teacher in grades four to eight at Pittsburgh Colfax K-8. The other day one of my ESL students passed me a note with a shy smile as he left our classroom: “Learn English is the best thinks a never have in my life.” My heart melted. This student arrived just last spring with absolutely no English. He is finally starting to speak above a whisper.

“But this student is being crushed, intellectually and emotionally. Despite the fact that he is still so new to English, he is in the midst of his scheduled 16 hours of PSSA testing; my other ESL students are scheduled for between seven and 20 hours.

“It is my professional opinion that this experience will set my student back, that it will hurt his progress, but my professional opinion will never be weighed against the many requirements — federal, state and district-wide —which demand that these tests be given.”

Her professional judgment doesn’t count. The civil rights groups that demand these tests should visit her classroom.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 150,295 other followers