The Daily Tarheel published an editorial advising students at the University of North Carolina to think twice before joining Teach for America.

The writers noted that the state pays $3,000 per year for each of 500 TFA, most of whom will leave after two years in the classroom. At the same time the legislature set aside money for TFA temps, it eliminated the successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, whose graduates pledge to stay as teachers in the NC public schools for at least four years.

“More often, TFA’s shortcomings are symptomatic of broader failings in American education rather than of its own malfeasance. As of 2013, less than 1 percent of N.C. teachers were TFA employees. If the state wants better teachers, it should pay them more and restore the N.C. Teaching Fellows program, which required a four-year commitment to teach in the state’s public schools. And policymakers should recommit to tackling the crippling poverty that inhibits the educational advancement of all children nationally.

“Meanwhile, students and current TFA employees should continue pushing the program to reform itself. At the very least, TFA ought to consider increasing the length of its required commitment.

“This board holds a litany of other concerns with TFA, including the often insufficient emotional support it provides its young teachers and the particular effect it has on unions and teachers of color. Students, teachers, TFA alumni and current employees, we want to hear from you.”

Who wrote the Common Core standards? Advocates say that teachers did it but that is not accurate. .

Here are two useful descriptions of the process that created the Common Core standards.

This one is by Mercedes Schneider, who completed a book about the Common Core last summer; it will be published by Teachers College Press.

This one appeared on Julian Vasquez Heilig’s blog, “Cloaking Inequity.”

Both agree that the dominant voices in the writing of the standards were Student Achievement Partners (David Coleman, Jason Zimba, and Susan Pimentel) and testing companies. Classroom teachers were scarce.

Nancy Bailey reports that special education is in jeopardy in Seattle.

 

She writes:

 

You can’t put your guard down. Rest assured the wheels of ugly education reform continue to churn. Here is a recent Seattle Times headline, “Special Education is Ineffective and too Expensive, Report Says.”

 

Why? Well, students with special needs, 54 percent to be exact, aren’t managing to get their diplomas on time. They also aren’t going on to college as much as their non-disabled peers. They fail to always reach their NCLB goals on their IEPs. Students with emotional disabilities, I’m guessing with no real SPED services, are getting suspended 2 to 3 times more often than the students without disabilities. Second language students aren’t being served well, and parents have become concerned that their students won’t be employable.

 

I would argue that the reforms that have taken place since the reauthorizations that formed IDEA, along with NCLB and RTTT, have not been in the best interest of students with special needs across the country. The harsh budget cuts haven’t helped either.

 

But instead of fixing the problems in Seattle, and without reassessing the terrible reforms that have been foisted on schools and students with disabilities for the last 20 years or more, this is what the rubber stamped Blue Ribbon Commission Report from the Governor’s office, came up with:

 

The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes, but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how much they can achieve in their lifetime.

 

“System,” of course, implies teachers. Hey, you teachers quit sitting around painting your nails and raise those expectations! And while you are at it—embrace Common Core! Why doesn’t the news say what they all really mean?

 

And this is how the Seattle Times puts it:

 

But the vast majority of children in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.

 

And where does this all come from? What revolutionary research study have we missed? Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education!

 

You see, with higher expectations and plenty of rigor, most if not all of the students with disabilities can achieve excellent results. And that is where the Common Core comes in: Rigor for all. No exceptions, no excuses.

Roman Shtrakhman, a teacher of Advanced Placement history and International Baccalaureate classes in Florida, sent the following letter to members of the Broward County school board, the superintendent, and journalists across the state. Can a high school teacher be as effective teaching six classes as five. This teacher says no.

 

 

Dear colleagues, it has come to my attention that the School Board of Broward County and Superintendent Runcie are developing a Task Force to address High School teacher scheduling issues, with an emphasis on the 6th class they have all been made to teach. Please allow me to share my observations.

 

We all understand that this decision is essentially is a funding issue. When the voters of Florida overwhelmingly passed a Constitutional Amendment in 2002 to keep class sizes low they did not anticipate that the Legislature would refuse to fund it, thereby negating its very purpose. And they certainly didn’t expect that the State would then have the gall to fine Districts for not having the money to follow it.

 

I fear, however, that what was initially conceived as a temporary budgetary measure might very well become permanent. Laws have a habit of doing just that. This would be very problematic. For those of us who approach our classes with academic enthusiasm, demanding intellectual and philosophical interaction, asking us to do this 6 times a day is, I’m afraid, unworkable. You see, lowering class time from 55 minutes to 50 while adding an additional class is not an equal distribution of responsibility. The 5 minutes are essentially negligible. After all, each incoming class deserves a new introduction, a new explanation, and all the energy the teacher can muster. It is, as we all know, what the students deserve. But throwing on a 6th class adds a very serious weight to the situation, and turns the school day into an assembly line of sorts. Please believe me that there is a huge difference between 5 and 6 classes per day. It is, in fact, the difference between quality and quantity in an academic sense.

 

I teach several Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes every year. That means that I have between 75-100 students that are taking college level classes. They are preparing to take very difficult tests that will give them college credit and save them money in college costs. I take my AP and IB classes very seriously.

 

These students have a right to the very best I have to give them. They deserve efficient lectures, lively in-class discussions, and a meticulous approach to the subject matter. Yet asking me to do this for now a 6th time every day dilutes the situation. I am not a machine, after all. What will wind up happening is that mediocre teachers will simply start handing out worksheets, and very good teachers will work themselves to death because they don’t know any other way of teaching but to give it their all.

 

This situation should certainly be addressed and if at all possible, reversed. Again, please believe me when I tell you that there is a huge difference between teaching 5 and 6 classes per day. It is, in point of emphasis, the difference between a comprehensive and holistic approach to academia, and simply putting a body in front of the kids. Some schools are even asking teachers to teach a 7th. This cannot happen. Although funding issues are of great concern, we must do everything in our power to maintain scholastic legitimacy. This country cannot afford to have an uneducated population. We have seen that this too has consequences.

 

 

Roman Shtrakhman
National Board Certified
Advanced Placement
and International Baccalaureate
History Teacher
Plantation High School

Politico reports that Jeb Bush won’t back down on Common Core, choice–vouchers, charters, online charters–and the rest of corporate reform that offers huge opportunities for entrepreneurs. It was his conference, and he offered a line-up of star speakers, including Condoleeza Rice, a newly minted education expert who promotes charters and vouchers, and Amanda Ripley.

Rice apparently doesn’t know that vouchers have produced no academic gains in Milwaukee, Cleveland, or D.C.

“- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio concluded the conference on Thursday night with a wide-ranging discussion about education reform. Rice said the public school system is in and of itself unequal, and defenders of the “status quo are on the defensive.” Critics of school choice like to say that it’s taking money away from public schools, she said. “Well, what can they do? They can get better,” she said to applause. Wealthier families are already sending their children to private school and disadvantaged families are trapped in failing schools, she said. “We need to give parents that wouldn’t otherwise have the means to send their children to a school system that works for them,” Rice said.

- The national summit continues today with a lineup of guests including OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher, New Mexico state education chief Hanna Skandera, Louisiana Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard and author Amanda Ripley. The agenda: http://bit.ly/1zDYtjJ Watch live: http://bit.ly/1F4X74r”

Will Bush’s full-throated support of Common Core hurt him in Republican primaries? Will choice mean anything if every school has the same standards and the same tests?

Peter Greene explains why an all-charter district or state will never succeed. Charters, to the extent that they can get higher scores than public schools, do so by selecting the most desirable students, the ones who are least costly to educate. Charters that are open to all, as public schools are, get the same result. Many charters, even when they cherry pick students, nonetheless get low test scores, for various reasons, such as teacher churn, lack of experience among administrators and teachers, prioritizing profit over education, or incompetence

 

Greene looks at the issue of scalability and predicts that it will never happen and in fact has never happened. New Orleans, the closest thing to an all-charter district, is ranked 65th of 68 districts in Louisiana; most of the charters in the Recovery School District are rated by the state as D or F schools.

 

Greene cites the work of Jersey Jazzman, who has shown in numerous posts that the charters in New Jersey do not serve the same demographics as the public schools. It is not surprising that no charter chain has offered to take over an entire school district, because then they would have to educate all the students, including those with disabilities, English language learners, and kids who misbehave in class.

 

Charters have increased racial segregation, and most charters are more segregated than the district in which they are located. Segregation doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The media will cheer a charter with high scores even if it is 100% African American. The scores are all that matter. And the scores go up to the extent that the charter can choose its students and exclude the ones that don’t get high scores.

 

Greene writes:

 

Plenty of folks have always assumed that this was the end game: a private system for the best and the– well, if not brightest, at least the least poor and problematic– and an underfunded remnant of the public system to warehouse the students that the charter system didn’t want.

 

But those folks may have underestimated the greed, ambition and delusions of some charter backers. “Why stop at the icing,” operators say, “when we can have the whole cake?” And chartercrats like Arne Duncan, with dreams of scaleability dancing in their sugarplum heads, may really think that full-scale charter systems can work because A) they don’t understand that most charter “success” is illusory and B) they don’t know why.

 

It’s telling that while chartercrats are cheering on complete charter conversions for cities from York, PA to Memphis, TN, no charter chains have (as far as I know) expressed a desire to have a whole city to themselves. The preferred model is an urban broker like Tennessee’s ASD or the bureaucratic clusterfarfegnugen that is Philadelphia schools– charter operators can jostle for the juiciest slice of the steak and try to leave the gristle for some other poor sucker.

 

If you are counting on your pension as retirement income, you must read this article.

Wall Street insiders, it says, pumped $300 million into the last election. In return, they get to invest your pension funds. Some of those investments are very risky.

“Illinois, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island all recently elected governors who were previously executives and directors at firms which managed investments on behalf of state pension funds. These firms are now, consequently, in position to obtain even more of these public funds. This alone represents a huge payoff on that $300M investment made by the financial industry, and is likely to result in more pension money going into investments which offer great benefits for Wall Street but do little for the broader economy.

“But Wall Street’s agenda goes beyond any one election cycle. It has been fighting to turn public pensions into private profits for quite some time, steering retirement nest eggs into investments that are complex, charge hefty fees, and that generate big profits for management firms. And it has been succeeding. Of the $3 trillion in public assets currently in pension funds throughout the country, almost a quarter of that has already found its way into so-called “alternative investments” like hedge funds, private equity and real estate. That translates to roughly $660 billion of public money now under private management, invested in assets that are often arcane and opaque but that offer high management and placement fees to Wall Street financiers.”

UNICEF has released its annual report: The State of the World’s Children, 2015.

I was honored to be invited to contribute a chapter. My contribution is one of a large number of stories about how to improve the lives of the world’s children.

You might enjoy reading the report.

Jonathan Pelto of Connecticut has done an amazing job of assembling a network of 200 bloggers and writers who support public education. That number is sure to grow as more parents and educators join the blogosphere.

Jon’s blog “Wait, What?” Is one of the most influential blogs in Connecticut.

Those who seek to privatize our public schools have vast amounts of money (the big foundations created their own blog, funded at $12 million), but we have bloggers and writers who are passionate and dedicated to the democratic role of public schools as a public good that belongs to the public, not corporations.

Jon Pelto writes:

Education Bloggers Network Hits 200 Members

The Education Bloggers Network is an informal confederation of more than 200 bloggers and commentators who are dedicated to supporting public education in the United States and pushing back the corporate education reform industry. While many have their own blogs, some write commentary pieces for local, regional and national newspapers and media outlets. Still others use their Facebook or other platforms to write about education issues.

Like the Committees of Correspondence leading up to America’s War for Independence, education bloggers work alone and in groups to educate, persuade and mobilize parents, teachers, education advocates and citizens to stand up and speak out against those who seek to undermine our public education system, privatize our schools and turn our classrooms into little more than Common Core testing factories.

The Education Bloggers Network was developed in conjunction with the publication and roll-out of Diane Ravitch’s best-selling book, “Reign of Error.”

Over the past two years it has become a vibrant community of advocacy journalists, investigative bloggers and public education activists working to make sure that citizens have accurate and timely information about public education issues at the local, state and federal level.

The Education Bloggers Network is not about controlling editorial content but sharing information, helping bloggers enhance their platforms and provide expanded venues so that their articles garner greater readership.

For example, the Education Bloggers Network works closely with the nationally renowned Progressive Magazine and a number of Network members have their articles and commentary pieces cross-posted to Public School Shakedown a website hosted by the Progressive.

The Education Bloggers Network also works closely with the Network for Public Education, the leading advocacy group, founded by Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, and other pro-public education leaders. The NPE’s mission is to “protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.”

As Diane Ravitch noted in a post about the Education Bloggers Network, “If you blog and if you support public education as a pillar of our democracy, consider joining the Education Bloggers Network.”

To become part of the Education Bloggers Network contact Jonathan Pelto, the founder and manager of the Network at jonpelto@gmail.com

(A complete directory of the Education Bloggers Network will be available soon)

This is a terrific article by civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker about the madness of our nation’s obsession with standardized testing.

 

She writes:

 

Last year, President Barack Obama committed hundreds of millions of dollars to brain research, stressing the importance of discovering how people think, learn and remember. Given the priority President Obama places on the brain in scientific research, it is sadly ironic that his education policies ignore what science says is good for children’s brains.

It is well known that play is vital in the early grades. Through play, kindergarteners develop their executive function and deepen their understanding of language. These are the cornerstones of successful reading and learning later on.

At-risk children often arrive at school having heard fewer words than more advantaged children. This deficit puts at-risk children behind others in learning to read. Scientists at Northwestern have recently shown that music training in the early years helps the brain improve speech processing in at-risk children.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have demonstrated that physical activity, coupled with downtime, improves children’s cognitive functions.

Scientists have also shown that diversity makes people more innovative. Being exposed to different disciplines broadens a student’s perspective. More importantly, working with a people from different backgrounds increases creativity and critical thinking.

These proven paths to healthy brain development are blocked by Obama’s education policies, the most pernicious of which is the overemphasis on standardized tests.

Despite paying lip service to the perils of over-testing, our leaders have imposed educational policies ensuring that standardized tests dominate schooling. Though standardized tests are invalid to measure teacher performance, the Obama administration insists that students’ standardized test scores be part of teacher evaluation systems. Both under NCLB and the NCLB waivers, schools are rated by standardized test scores. Often, a high school diploma depends at least in part on these tests. When so much rides on a standardized test scores, tests will drive what is taught and learned.

Just last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared that yearly standardized testing is essential to monitor children’s progress. Setting aside the fact the new Common Core tests have not been proven to show what children learn, data shows that a child who passes a standardized test one year is overwhelmingly likely to pass the next year. Therefore, yearly standardized testing is unnecessary.

 

She adds:

 

The result? More than 10 years of high-stakes test-based education policy under NCLB and the waivers has narrowed curricula. Schools de-emphasize any subject other than language arts and math. In kindergarten, play has all but been eliminated in favor of direct instruction, and social studies, art, music, science, physical education and other subjects are disappearing. School districts at all grade levels are forced to reduce or eliminate these subjects to pay for implementation of the Common Core and its testing regime. Lansing Michigan last year eliminated art, music and physical education from elementary schools and the state of Ohio is considering the same. Recess has disappeared from many schools. The Obama administration promotes policies that increase school segregation yet have questionable educational value, like school choice. Consequently, school segregation continues to rise.

 

If we don’t end our obsession with picking the right bubble, marking the right box, we will ruin the education of a generation of children.

 

 

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