Archives for category: Teachers

Andrea Gabor, who is the Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College, is an expert on the life and philosophy of W. Edwards Deming. Deming has been widely credited with reviving the Japanese economy, as well as major American corporations who listened to him.

 

In this fascinating post, she draws lessons from the work of Deming and shows how they apply to education reform. The “reformers” want the schools to learn from business, but they are pushing the wrong lessons, she says. “Top-down, punitive solutions” don’t work. They demoralize employees. Deming believed in a work environment of collaboration and trust, not fear and blame. When things were not going well, he believed it was wrong to blame the front-line workers. While today’s “reformers” want to find and fire “bad teachers,” Deming insisted: “The responsibility for quality rests with senior management.” He was a dedicated foe of performance pay, as he concluded that it sowed dissension and unhealthy competition among workers who should be working as a team.

 

She writes:

 

Deming’s approach to organizational improvement transformed entire industries in post-war Japan and, later, in the U.S. In the years leading up to his death, in 1993, he began turning his interest to education. He believed that the same principles he advocated for companies—systems thinking, collaborative improvement, understanding statistical variation, creating organizational cultures free of fear and conducive to creative problem-solving—could also transform schools.

 

Simply put, Deming would be appalled by much of what passes for education reform today…..

 

Deming’s work has important implications for education: First, it is based on management (everyone from principals to education bureaucrats) recognizing its responsibility for creating a climate conducive to meaningful improvement, including building trust and collaboration, and providing the necessary training; this involves hard work, Deming admonished, not quick-fix gimmicks, incentives or threats.

 

Second, for many teacher advocates, it means dropping the defensive—education-is-good-enough—posture and embracing a mindset of continuous improvement; it also may mean adopting union contracts that mirror the professional practices of many teachers and are based on more flexible work rules. (Though not the unsustainable sweat-shop hours that are common at many charters.)

 

Third, by ending the finger-pointing and building a more collaborative approach to improvement, schools and districts could create cultures that are far more rewarding and productive for both children and educators….

 

Deming invoked the power of statistical theory: If management is doing its job correctly in terms of hiring, developing employees and keeping the system stable, most people will do their best. Of course, there will always be fluctuations—human beings, after all, aren’t automatons. Deming understood that an employee with a sick child, a toothache or some other “special cause” problem may not function at peak performance all the time. However, in a well-designed system, most employees will perform around a mean.

 

There will also be outliers who perform above or below the mean—though well-run organizations will have the fewest outliers because they’re hiring and training practices will guarantee a consistent level of performance. The work of high performers, Deming believed, should be studied; their work can serve as a model for improving the system.

 

Low performers, Deming believed, represent a failure of management to perform one of its key functions. Deming believed that hiring represents a moral and contractual obligation. Once hired, it is management’s responsibility to help every employee succeed whether via training or relocation. While it might occasionally be necessary to fire a poor performer, Deming believed this option should be a last resort…..

 

The lessons for education are clear: Quality improvement must begin with senior management (principals and education bureaucrats) establishing the conditions for collaboration and iterative problem-solving. It requires flexibility and professionalism from both teachers and education leaders. Finally, a climate of fear and finger-pointing will do nothing to improve schools; indeed, it is likely to set back the effort for years to come.

 

There is much we can learn from Deming. This important post is a must-read.

 

 

 

 

Matthew Tully of the Indianapolis Star calls on Republicans to stop their war against state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Ritz was elected in 2012, handiy beating incumbent Tony Bennett despite his 10-1 spending advantage. Since her election, the Republican Governor Mike Pence and Legislature and state board have done everything possible to undercut Ritz. Pence even created a rival education agency to bypass Ritz and the state education department.

Now the Governor and Legislature want to abolish her office, nullify the election, and turn the position into a gubernatorial appointment.

Matthew Tully says this is ill-advised. He favors an appointed office but thinks it would be wrong to do it in the current climate. She was elected fair and square. She got more votes than Governor Pence.

“Such a move would infuriate educators and others across the state and worsen what has been a toxic period in state education policy. It would be a slap in the face to voters who elected a Democratic superintendent in 2012, one who many GOP bosses, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s leaders, do not like….

“If you think the debate has been ugly of late — with state Board of Education meetings topping anything you’d find in a room full of sugared-up preschoolers — imagine what would happen if already frustrated educators and their supporters statewide see their votes steamrolled by a Republican legislative supermajority.

“Any benefit would be greatly overwhelmed by the ill will the move would inspire, and by the message it would send. In a state where no leaders are calling for the appointment of currently elected (and Republican-held) offices like treasurer and auditor, this would be a straight-up bully move. And it would backfire in a bad way on Republicans by giving the same voters who worked so hard against Bennett in 2012 a reason to get motivated for 2016.

“Yes, the change would likely guarantee fewer of the fights we’ve seen between Gov. Pence’s education appointees and Ritz’s office. And, yes, it would allow the state to have greater alignment at the top when it comes to setting an education vision. But that’s all worthless if the people on the ground — Indiana’s teachers — feel abused, and if voters feel betrayed”

“Anyone who thinks Indiana’s schools can be improved in any real way without the buy-in of its educators is living in a policy bubble and not a classroom.”

The Néw York Board of Regents is meeting today to vote on a proposal to make field testing of online Pearson tests for Common Core mandatory. Commissioner John King says it will make the tests more valid and reliable.

But it won’t make the tests useful to teachers or students. Teachers are not allowed to know which questions their students got right or wrong, so the tests have no diagnostic value. They are not allowed to discuss the tests with one another. The tests are an expensive waste of time.

In the past, Pearson tests have had numerous errors. How will the public know if their children are fairly judged?

Teachers must teach to the tests to help the children and to protect their jobs.

This is not education. It is regimentation.

Call your Regent and tell them not to make field testing mandatory. Call your legidlators. Enough is enough.

Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center in Long Island, New York, tells a shocking story about the intransigence of the New York State PTA to concerns expressed by some of its members. In 2012, parents and educators in the Niagara region of the state prepared a resolution opposing high-stakes testing. They wanted to present it to the state PTA convention, but were told it was too late and their resolution would not be considered. The parents refined their resolution and tried again the next year, but the state leaders of the PTA once again said that their resolution would not be presented to the membership at the state convention.

 

Meanwhile, the New York State PTA developed its own position paper on the issues. That paper was remarkable in what it did not say–in fact it appeared to be deliberately designed to say nothing at all. There were only vague references to the effects of high-stakes testing, along with a “thumbs up” for the Common Core State Standards and APPR, the state’s controversial teacher evaluation system. The group took heart that their stronger resolution would be approved by those attending the Convention, allowing the State PTA to take a stronger stand. However, once again it was rejected by the resolutions committee with a letter that outlined the reasoning.

 

The rejection letter was an odd response that talked about Regents exams (the resolution was for 3-8 tests only) and criticized Niagara for not defining “high stakes testing,” It claimed that the position paper that the New York State PTA had recently issued was in conflict with the resolution, because it called for student scores to not be used in teacher evaluations. In fact, the NYS PTA position paper never mentioned the use of Grades 3-8 tests scores in APPR at all. It used the term “multiple measures.”

 

At the NYSPTA conventions of 2012 and 2013, Principal John McKenna and two parent representatives read statements of concern about testing from the floor. As he told me, “Our statements were met with great applause and support from the membership.”

 

That support strengthened their resolve to create a resolution that would be acceptable. In 2014, the Niagara Region PTA broke their resolution in half, creating two different resolutions to meet the objections of the state committee. “The ask” in one resolution was a review of APPR and a delay in its use for employment decisions. The second resolution asked for a delay in the use of high-stakes testing, a return to the development of assessments by teachers and a restoration of school funding.

 

Once again, the resolutions were rejected.

 

Burris asks whether the New York State PTA represents parents or teachers. The state has been in an uproar over the Common Core and the tests, which now require third graders to be tested for nine hours. Yet parents and teachers cannot get their state organization to hear their voices.

 

Who does the New York State PTA represent?

Franchesca Warren is outraged by “the deadening silence of teachers.” Teachers are afraid to say what they know and believe for fear of being fired.

She writes:

“As a pretty opinionated teacher, I am always full of ideas and speak out regularly against practices that are unjust or not beneficial to students. However, time and time again I have been “scolded” by more veteran teachers who warn me that being vocal would quickly get me “blackballed” in the district. This fact was even more evident when I was invited to a private screening of a new documentary entitled “Scapegoats.” The film uses teacher interviews to examine how teachers have historically been made to be the scapegoats with anything bad that occurs in education. While I was in total agreement with what was being said in the document, I was dismayed that more than half of the teachers interviewed opted to have their face (and voices) distorted so their administration would not retaliate against them.

“As I listened to teachers recall the atrocities that occur in public education, it was evident that these educational “pundits” and politicians have made it nearly impossible for teachers to exercise their first amendment rights. Teachers are terrified of voicing their opinions because many times it not only makes them a target but could possibly make them not get their contract renewed for the following year!

“Instead of forgetting my feelings and just chalking the film up to that how things are, I got angry.”

She adds:

“The truth is hidden while the public is made to believe that lies are the truth. Truth be told, the majority of teachers loathe the increased standardized testing in schools. Truth be told, the people who make policies about education don’t even have their kids enrolled in public schools. Truth be told, the people who run the school districts are usually not equipped with the pedagogy or experience to actually lead a classroom in 2013. Truth be told, federal programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are just programs to further destroy public education and allow private entities to take our tax dollars.”

And more:

“Despite the deafening silence, there are many educators who are getting angry and speaking up with no regard to the possible consequences. You have district administrators like John Kuhn who say “enough is enough” and write eloquent pieces like “Exhaustion of the American Teacher.”

“You have teachers who decided to make the film “The Inconvenient Truths Behind Waiting for Superman” and expose the policies that hurt our students.

“You have the teachers in Chicago and Oregon that courageously decided to strike to ensure that their voices would be heard.

“Times are changing, and I for one am glad. The truth is no longer being hidden by our deafening silence. There are more teacher in the world than people who might want to silence us. So speak, act, march, discuss and demand to be heard. Apparently, we might have the 14th Amendment on our side.”

Jonathan Lovell, a teacher educator in California, received many messages after the election urging him to “keep your chin up ,” “don’t be discouraged,” that he decided to reply to one of them, the one that came from President Obama.

Here is his message to the President, followed by the President’s message to him.

Dear Mr President,

Thanks very much for this email. It has given me a lift during a period in which I’ll admit to experiencing “post mid-term blues.”

As a teacher educator who has spent the last 35 years visiting middle and high school English classrooms — about 2500 of them — helping beginning teachers reflect on their teaching practices, I cannot say that I am a supporter of the present RTTT-inspired direction of the USDOE.
I am, however, a strong supporter of your presidency and the overall direction, educational policy excepted, in which you have helped to steer our nation over the past six years.

I hope these next two years will provide you an opportunity to review and eventually approve an overhaul and eventual reauthorization of the ESEA.

As you know better than most, this piece of legislation has had unintended but easily anticipated consequences. Right now, it is leaving most children, and virtually all teachers, not only “behind,” but demoralized and frustrated.

I hope your next two years will give you a chance to publicly celebrate the public school teaching profession for the great contributions it has made to the strength and promise of our unique democracy.

And in the spirit of Bob Herbert’s magnificent new book Losing Our Way, I hope these next two years will also provide you with opportunities to celebrate the true mission of American public education, and to clarify for the nation, as well as to personally and politically confront, those powerful forces that threaten to undermine its fundamental importance.

My best,

Jonathan Lovell
Professor of English and Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project
San Jose State University

On Nov 7, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Barack Obama wrote:

Jonathan, the hardest thing in politics is changing the status quo. The easiest thing is to get cynical.

The Republicans had a good night on Tuesday, Jonathan — but believe me when I tell you that our results were better because you stepped up, talked to your family and friends, and cast your ballot.

I want you to remember that we’re making progress. There are workers who have jobs today who didn’t have them before. There are millions of families who have health insurance today who didn’t have it before. There are kids going to college today who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college before.

So don’t get cynical, Jonathan. Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or built a business, or fed a young mind. Cynicism is a choice. And hope will always be a better choice.

I have hope for the next few years, and I have hope for what we’re going to accomplish together.

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Dear Diane,

I’ve been receiving so many “keep your chin up” emails over the past few days, primarily from democratic organizations and individuals to whom I’d sent donations during the past several months, that I decided to respond to one of them: the President’s.

What I wrote is below, with the President’s email below that.

Ever fondly,
Jonathan Lovell

On Nov 7, 2014, at 3:21 PM, Jonathan Lovell wrote:

Dear Mr President,

Thanks very much for this email. It has given me a lift during a period in which I’ll admit to experiencing “post mid-term blues.”

As a teacher educator who has spent the last 35 years visiting middle and high school English classrooms — about 2500 of them — helping beginning teachers reflect on their teaching practices, I cannot say that I am a supporter of the present RTTT-inspired direction of the USDOE.

I am, however, a strong supporter of your presidency and the overall direction, educational policy excepted, in which you have helped to steer our nation over the past six years.

I hope these next two years will provide you an opportunity to review and eventually approve an overhaul and eventual reauthorization of the ESEA.

As you know better than most, this piece of legislation has had unintended but easily anticipated consequences. Right now, it is leaving most children, and virtually all teachers, not only “behind,” but demoralized and frustrated.

I hope your next two years will give you a chance to publicly celebrate the public school teaching profession for the great contributions it has made to the strength and promise of our unique democracy.

And in the spirit of Bob Herbert’s magnificent new book Losing Our Way, I hope these next two years will also provide you with opportunities to celebrate the true mission of American public education, and to clarify for the nation, as well as to personally and politically confront, those powerful forces that threaten to undermine its fundamental importance.

My best,
Jonathan Lovell
Professor of English and Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project
San Jose State University

On Nov 7, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Barack Obama wrote:

Jonathan, the hardest thing in politics is changing the status quo. The easiest thing is to get cynical.

The Republicans had a good night on Tuesday, Jonathan — but believe me when I tell you that our results were better because you stepped up, talked to your family and friends, and cast your ballot.

I want you to remember that we’re making progress. There are workers who have jobs today who didn’t have them before. There are millions of families who have health insurance today who didn’t have it before. There are kids going to college today who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college before.

So don’t get cynical, Jonathan. Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or built a business, or fed a young mind. Cynicism is a choice. And hope will always be a better choice.

I have hope for the next few years, and I have hope for what we’re going to accomplish together.

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Edward F. Berger explains one reason why Democrats got hammered on Election Day. President Obama alienated teachers by walking in the footsteps of George W. Bush. He and Arne Duncan wreaked havoc on public schools. They outraged and demoralized teachers.

 

The Democratic party adopted the Republican agenda, and they turned off a day part of their base:

 

“The Obama administration, and especially Arne Duncan, dealt a blow to educators, parents and educated citizens when they sided with corporations like Pearson, and those who believe a punishing blow to teachers and public community schools will improve American education.

 

“The USDOE is now an agency without credibility, driven by ideologies that are not based in reality. For example, pushing the false belief that bad teachers are responsible for troubled schools. The Obama administration discounted the real factors that hold children back – poverty, fear, instability, and futility generated by a failed economic system, not teachers or bad parents. In doing this, President Obama has lost the confidence of our educated leaders and shamed his largest support base.

 

“By systematically destroying the nations confidence in educators and public schools, and following unqualified, self-appointed change agents like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michelle Rhee, Mike Bloomberg, and a few dozen other profiteers, this administration undermined confidence in educators and fact-based education. To do this they develop tests to prove that bad teachers are exposed by student tests. They do this by whatever means Pearson can profit by selling tests, and more tests, that are made mandatory for all school districts to buy and force into place. To do this, they overlook what schools really do for children and for the future.

 

“President Obama ignored votes of no confidence in Arne Duncan and the present course of the USDOE. He totally discounts scholars and experienced education leaders. In doing so, he destroyed his base. He has let stand the false charges that teachers and teachers associations are the problem, and he has allowed the re-segregation of schools in many states. He has supported access to public tax dollars by religious schools. He has provided wealth from our education tax dollars to profit-driven corporations, not to kids.”

A concerned parent activist in Indiana sent this message:

 

 

As election campaign promises are being made, carefully consider any candidate who claims he or she will “reward our best teachers.”
“Rewarding our best teachers” is a purposely deceptive claim. In fact, after replacing traditional pay scales with merit based schemes in 2011, State Republicans immediately reduced funds from the “Teacher Performance Awards”. Originally budgeted at $11 million, the Republican controlled house voted to reduce this fund 82%. Across the state teachers evaluated as effective have been told, “there is no money for ‘rewards’.”
Many teachers today earn less money than they did in 2011, yet the 2014 Indiana Republican Platform claims “Retaining and Attracting Young Talent” is a top priority. The state continues to lose some of its best and brightest teachers to other professions.Talented youth entering college are being told, “You do not want to go into education.”
This year’s election must be about education. Voting for legislators or senators who claim to “reward our best teachers” is to vote for a promise that has already been broken.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

In 2011, Senate Bill 0001 (SB0001) passed, eliminating teacher contracts and requiring what evolved into the RISE evaluation. Those who supported this idea claimed it would reward effective teachers. In reality, most teachers saw that their pay froze.

 

Once this plan was implemented, districts searched their coffers for funds in which to “reward” effective teachers but found them drained by these same state senators who also slashed educational funding.

 

In essence, SB0001 did just the opposite of what it was intended to do. More quality teachers have left the profession than ever before. Most teachers, even those who have been dubbed highly effective since this evaluation was put in place, find themselves making substantially less money than they did in 2011.

 

Further, school districts in financially struggling areas that needed support the most found themselves losing teachers to more affluent districts that could bolster their funds through referendums. SB 1, whether intentional or not, gives effective and highly effective teachers real cause to hesitate to seek challenging assignments—which, in the end, hurts students who need quality teaching the most.”

 

Finally, many politicians supporting this type of merit pay claim this election year they will focus dollars on the classroom. However, the RISE evaluation has created such red tape for schools that they have had to hire more administrators for this accountability or pull resources out of the classroom to manage.

 

Sadly, six senators who supported this measure and are up for reelection this year stand unopposed. That makes the four races where senators who supported SB0001 even more important. If you vote in one of the four senate districts below, please show your support for public education by voting for the challenger.

 

In State Senate District 47, Sen. Ronald Grooms voted for SB0001.
Vote challenger Chuck Freiberger

 

In State Senate District 45, Sen. James Smith voted for SB0001.
Vote challenger Julie Berry.

 

In State Senate District 41, Sen. Greg Walker voted for SB0001.
Vote challenger AndyTalarzyk.

 

In State Senate District 29, Sen. Michael Delph was absent, but supports policies like SB0001.
Vote Challenger J.D. Ford.

Mercedes Schneider was rated a “highly effective” teacher. She received a bonus of $427. 76. She gave it to a friend who is raising an autistic child.

A fourth-grade teacher at Pierre Capdeau Charter School in Louisiana got a bonus of $43,000 for raising her students’ test scores by 88%. The bonus is about 75% of her annual salary. A kindergarten teacher got even larger gains but her bonus was only $4,086 because the kindergarten scores don’t count for the state rankings.

The school is rated a D by the state. Last year it was graded D-.

This is the worst constitutional amendment to appear on any state ballot in 2014.

missouriballotissue

It ties teacher evaluation to student test scores. It bans collective bargaining about teacher evaluation. It requires teachers to be dismissed, retained, promoted, demoted, and paid based primarily on the test scores of their students. It requires teachers to enter into contracts of three years or less, thus eliminating seniority and tenure.

This is VAM with a vengeance.

This ballot resolution is the work of the far-right Show-Me Institute, funded by the multi-millionaire Rex Sinquefeld.

He is a major contributor to politics in Missouri and to ALEC.

The Center for Media and Democracy writes about him:

“Sinquefield is doing to Missouri what the Koch Brothers are doing to the entire country. For the Koch Brothers and Sinquefield, a lot of the action these days is not at the national but at the state level.

“By examining what Sinquefield is up to in Missouri, you get a sobering glimpse of how the wealthiest conservatives are conducting a low-profile campaign to destroy civil society.

“Sinquefield told The Wall Street Journal in 2012 that his two main interests are “rolling back taxes” and “rescuing education from teachers’ unions.”

“His anti-tax, anti-labor, and anti-public education views are common fare on the right. But what sets Sinquefield apart is the systematic way he has used his millions to try to push his private agenda down the throats of the citizens of Missouri.”

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