Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching

This Indiana teacher wants you to know what Governor Mike Pence did to the public schools on his home state. He didn’t do it alone. He had the help of Republicans who control the legislature, and he built on the anti-public school record of his predecessor Mitch Daniels.

The New York Times reviewed Pence’s record on education, noting his support for charters and vouchers and his efforts to undermine State Superintendent Gloria Ritz, who received more votes than Pence in 2012. All the sources the Times quoted are conservatives.

But the Indiana teacher, who is self-described as a conservative, calls out Pence for his ongoing attacks on the teaching profession.

In Indiana, small, rural schools are shutting down because funding has been cut, families are moving out of district, and whole communities are losing jobs where school corporations are the largest employers.

Inner-city schools, like Indianapolis Public Schools, are urban nightmares as charter schools take away public school funding, yet only meet the needs of a fraction of the population.

Cities like Indy, Detroit, and Chicago are the poster-children for big government in education. The corporate rich and politicians get the money, and the urban poor, of which have a racial bias, receive a sub-standard education.

This is what Pence brings to the Republican Party ticket if he follows the path he’s paved in Indiana. If you don’t think education effects all parts of society, then education has benefitted you. If you know what the school-to prison pipeline is, then I don’t need to explain anymore.

One of the most powerful players in the corporate reform movement is Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), which represents the hedge fund managers who are eager to expand privately managed charters with public dollars.

Experienced journalist Alexander Russo writes here in the publication of the conservative American Enterprise Institute about the travails of DFER. From the outside, it appears that DFER is powerful for two reasons: its money (which seems to be endless) and its closeness to the Obama administration. President Obama took his cues from DFER, not the teachers’ unions. But Russo says that DFER is losing its grip and its sense of possibility. If it appears to be aimless and dispirited, it is.

The two issues that it fought for–charters and teacher evaluation by test scores–have not been the big successes that the hedge fund guys expected. Obama is leaving, and there is no certainty that Hillary will be as congenial as he was. She has a debt to the teachers’ unions, and Obama had none. On issue after issue, there have been no results–not for the agenda of privatizing the schools, nor for the fantasy of booting out all those “bad teachers.”

Money was never lacking, and the vision has all but disappeared. DFER exists because it continues to raise money, not because there is a groundswell of support for privatization and firing teachers based on test scores.

DFER’s long-time executive director Joe Williams has left to work for the Walton family.

Meanwhile, DFER’s real opposition is not the teachers’ unions but the parents and educators who are fighting back on their own dime. The grassroots opponents of corporate reform don’t have the money that DFER has, but they have passion, commitment, and the support of classroom teachers and scholars who oppose DFER’s goals. No one pays them. They (we) will outlast DFER because DFER will grow tired, tired of losing Friedrichs, tired of losing Vergara, tired of reading about the Opt Out movement, tired of being thrashed by bloggers like Mercedes Schneider and Peter Greene, tired of being vilified for their selfless investment in “reform,” tired of getting no returns on their investment.

The tortoise and the hare. Rabbit stew, anyone?

In this post, EduShyster interviews Eunice Han, an economist who earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University and is now headed for the University of Utah.

Dr. Han studied the effects of unions on teacher quality and student achievement and concluded that unionization is good for teachers and students alike.

This goes against the common myth that unions are bad, bad, bad.

Han says that “highly unionized districts actually fire more bad teachers.”

And more: It’s pretty simple, really. By demanding higher salaries for teachers, unions give school districts a strong incentive to dismiss ineffective teachers before they get tenure. Highly unionized districts dismiss more bad teachers because it costs more to keep them.

Dr. Han found a natural experiment in the states that abolished collective bargaining.

Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee and Wisconsin all changed their laws in 2010-2011, dramatically restricting the collective bargaining power of public school teachers. After that, I was able to compare what happened in states where teachers’ bargaining rights were limited to states where there was no change. If you believe the argument that teachers unions protect bad teachers, we should have seen teacher quality rise in those states after the laws changed. Instead I found that the opposite happened. The new laws restricting bargaining rights in those four states reduced teacher salaries by about 9%. That’s a huge number. A 9% drop in teachers salaries is unheard of. Lower salaries mean that districts have less incentive to sort out better teachers, lowering the dismissal rate of underperforming teachers, which is what you saw happen in the those four states. Lower salaries also encouraged high-quality teachers to leave the teaching sector, which contributed to a decrease of teacher quality.

Send this link to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and any other reformers you can think of.

Wendy Lecker warns the people of Connecticut that the New Haven public schools have made a deal with the Relay “Graduate School of Education,” which trains robot teachers who value compliance and arrive with scripted lessons. Why contract with Relay, she asks, when there are highly reputable teacher education programs in the neighborhood?

When you consider that Connecticut is one of the highest achieving states in the nation on NAEP, you have to wonder how the charter industry captured the state’s political leadership.

This is a letter that I received:

I have been following you for the last 10 years and am in awe of your continued efforts to turn public education in the right direction.

I read your article this morning about a teacher who had had enough.

It could have been my story.

I am a retired NYC Department of Education pre-k teacher in an under represented community. I taught pre-k for 16 consecutive years in the same school. I was fortunate that I was able to introduce many innovative programs to support my students not just in academics but the more important social/emotional piece that schools often neglect.

I brought to my classroom American Sign Language, Yoga, Mindfulness, Cooking and Baking, Caterpillars into Butterflies and as much art and music as I could fit in a day.

My students thrived. Sadly, each year it became more and more difficult to protect my students from the “rigor” and academic push for 3 and 4 year olds.

This past year, I was evaluated by not just my supervisors but from NYC Instructional Coordinators, a Social Worker who came once a month and no longer worked with students and their families, but was there to teach me classroom management, and an Educational Coach who came to help me learn how to better assess my students.

In addition, NYC has contracted ECERS:

Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale.

The Instructional Coordinators returned to review the ECERS report on the premise of helping me attain a better rating the next year. They removed my television which I used to play videos for yoga and ASL for my students so they could see children their own age doing yoga and ASL.

They said ECERS did not allow more than 20 minutes a week for technology.

I tried to explain that the television was not technology but the television was removed.

They removed my oven because they believed it to be dangerous.

They removed my students yoga cushions because they said they were not sanitary despite the fact that they had washable covers.

The final blow came when in the ECERS report it stated that I had an inappropriate book; The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle.

The ECERS evaluator said it promoted violence and bullying because the grouchy ladybug wanted to fight.

Either she had never read the book or had read it and did not understand its value.

I no longer had any autonomy in my classroom and I could not in good conscience do what the IC’s and other outside people wanted me to do with my children.

It was a very difficult decision.

I had legacy families where I had taught 7 or 8 members of extended families.

Many families started teaching their children how to pronounce my name as soon as they were able to sit up.

My story is just one small grain of sand but I am confident that it is being replicated all over the country.

I left not because I was in an under represented community and not because many children had challenging issues but rather because the lack of support and understanding about what it means to be a teacher was draining the life out of me.

I am hopeful to continue to have a voice for children, particularly the ones that few want to teach.

If you post my story, please do not use my name.

The new federal law titled “Every Student Succeeds Act” encourages states to welcome newcomers to the field of teacher education, such as the Relay Graduate School of Education and the Match Graduate School of Education. Relay and Match have much in common. They do not have scholars or researchers on their “faculty.” At last check, neither had anyone with a doctorate in any subject on their faculty. They do not appear to teach cognitive development, child study, the history or economics of education, the uses and misuses of testing, early childhood education, or any other subject normally found in a typical graduate school of education. These “graduate schools” consist of charter teachers teaching future charter teachers how to raise test scores and how to maintain strict discipline. They might appropriately be called a “program,” but they are not “graduate schools of education,” nor should they have the right to award master’s degrees. Going to Match or Relay is akin to taking classes in computer programming or cooking or going to a trade school.

I discovered that EduShyster explained the Match “Graduate School of Education” a few years back. Read this short piece to understand what Match is and why so many of its ill-prepared teachers don’t last.

And remember, the Congress of the United States wants to promote more of these sham teacher-preparation programs.

Public Schools First NC reports here on the actions of the state legislature in its closing hours. It enacted as much as possible of the ALEC privatization agenda, inviting out-of-state charter operators to take over public schools, creating an “achievement school district” like the one that failed in Tennessee, and reducing oversight of charters.

Go to the website of http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org to see the full report and open the links.

The $22.34 billion conference budget (and money report) was released Monday evening, June 27. The Senate passed the budget Wednesday, and the House passed it on Friday, July 1. The spending plan for the next fiscal year obviously affects our public schools in many ways:

Average 4.7% salary increase for teachers. The teacher salary schedule will restore annual step increases for teachers in years 0-14, at year 15 salary will stay the same for next 10 years.

Raises average teacher salaries to over $50,000 in 2016-17 and $55,000 over the next three years.

School administrators receive step increase and a 1.5% increase to base salaries
Noncertified school personnel receive a 1.5% salary increase.

School administrators and noncertified personnel will also receive a one-time 0.5% bonus.

Starts a pilot program for rewarding third grade teachers. Teachers who are in the top 25% in the state for EVAAS student growth index scores in reading will share $5 million. Teachers who are in the top 25% of their LEAs for the same score will share $5 million, and teachers who fall in both categories will receive both bonuses.

Expanding the voucher program by an extra $10 million and 2,000 students every year until 2026-2027 when spending will plateau at $134.8 million per year. The budget also expands the percentage of money that can go to Kindergarten and 1st grade recipients, from 35% to 40% of what remains after prior recipients are enrolled.

Keeping the school performance grade formula at 80% test scores, 20% growth and the 15-point scale will remain for the next three years.

Requiring maximum class size ratios are: Kindergarten 1:18; 1st grade 1:16; and 2nd and 3rd grade 1:17. The budget also eliminates districts’ flexibility around those caps.
Funding 260 new pre-K slots at a cost of $1.325 million. This is far less than the more than 7,000 children on the state’s pre-K waiting list and contrasts with both the governor’s and the House plans to spend $4 million on 800 spots.

Changing requirements for virtual charter schools, including reducing the percentage of teachers who must live in state from 90% to 80%, and changing the way students who withdraw are counted under the withdrawal rate cap of 25% by creating four new exceptions. For instance a student who withdraws for “a family, personal, or medical reason” and who notifies the school would not count as a withdrawal under the cap.

Reducing central office budgets by $2.5 million, bringing funding down to mid-90’s levels.

The House passed the omnibus charter school measure HB 242, which changes many aspects of charter reviews and renewals, despite the opposition of a national charter school group. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers criticized the bill in a letter because the changes leave little way for the State Board to close low-performing charters while also making reviews too infrequent for high-performing charters to be eligible for federal grants. The measure was sent to Governor McCrory to be signed on Wednesday, June 29.

In addition to the budget, the Senate amended and passed the ASD bill HB 1080 this week, over the objections of several Democratic members. Sen. Chad Barefoot amended the bill to require the chosen school operators be experienced in turning underperforming schools around, to allow the extension of the charter operators’ contracts, and to allow Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to create an innovation zone with their existing Project Lift schools. The House quickly concurred with the coercive takeover measure and sent it to the governor along with its li’l buddy, HB 242. Is it a coincidence that a measure forcing communities to surrender schools to out-of-state charter operators was put before the governor on the same exact day as a measure shredding accountability for charter operators? I can raise one eyebrow at a time, and I’m doing it now. For real.

These bills and many others are on the governor’s desk now. No surprise vetoes are expected, but all that signing is a hand cramp waiting to happen. Keep hope alive!

Follow us on Facebook and the web for the latest on the massive voucher expansion contained in the budget. Refresh yourself on the differences between public and private schools in order to scrutinize the growing Opportunity Scholarship program.

Be sure to visit our LEGISLATIVE UPDATE page for information, including our Week In Review summary and our weekly video review.

Over the next few weeks, we will provide more in-depth analysis of the bills that impacted K-12 public education in North Carolina.

Articles like this are sad and even sickening. It is the story of a 29-year veteran in Brookline, Massachusetts, who teaches first grade. He is leaving.

It is outrageous to see beloved, dedicated teachers leave the classroom. Yet when you think of the steady barrage of hostile propaganda directed at them by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, D.C. think tanks, and others, you can understand why they find it impossible to stay. I hope there is a new wave of articles about teachers who said: No matter what, I will not leave! I love my kids! I love my work! I will not let the reformers drive me away!

David Weinstein is throwing in the towel. He is in his early 50s. He shouldn’t be leaving so soon. He explains how teaching has changed, how much pressure is on the children, how much time is wasted collecting data that doesn’t help him as a teacher or his students.

He sums up:

I guess the big-picture problem is that all this stuff we’re talking about here is coming from on top, from above, be it the federal government, the commonwealth of Massachusetts, the school administration. But the voices of teachers are lost. I mean, nobody talks to teachers. Or, if they do talk to teachers, they’re not listening to teachers.

This is one of the best articles ever on how to end the teacher shortage.

Janice and Geoffrey Strauss write:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s irrational vendetta against teachers and public education, aided and abetted by the state legislature and former Commissioner John King’s inept handling of Common Core, charter schools and the public education system have all led to such a toxic atmosphere in education that few candidates want to even get near public school teaching…..

We must make public school teaching attractive again, and here is a short list of what should be done:

1. Eliminate the EdTPA. This system, promoted as increasing standards for teachers, is in reality so onerous and poorly thought out that it is discouraging qualified applicants to the profession. It costs both teacher candidates and the state millions, and has resulted in teacher candidates being less prepared for teaching rather than more so.

2. Eliminate standardized testing in the public schools and for teacher candidate preparation. Research shows the best indicator of a student’s success is their GPA, not standardized test scores. Standardized testing merely adds to the coffers of the private testing industry. Reinstitute teacher-created Regent’s exams. Teacher created exams are age appropriate, more accurately test the learning of students and cost much less than corporate prepared tests.

3. Let teachers mark their own students’ tests. It’s cheaper and better.

4. Eliminate corporate “canned” teaching modules created to meet Common Core Standards, and allow teachers to create their lesson plans. Teachers are the experts; release their creativity so that they can teach students properly.

5. Make the teaching profession attractive financially. Eliminate Tiers V and VI in the teacher retirement system. One of the tradeoffs teachers had accepted for the relatively low pay for the amount of education required was a decent pension. Tiers V and VI were created to punish teachers, not reward them for their service.

6. Create a “Teacher Bar Association” to establish educational requirements for teachers for public and charter schools, thus officially recognizing that teaching is a profession. Lawyers, doctors and CPAs are experts in their fields, as are teachers in theirs.

7. Establish a program to help raise the status of teaching in the public’s consciousness. Few want to enter a profession which is constantly derided by politicians and the press.

8. Common Core has been a disaster; eliminate it. While the intent was perhaps a good one, it was created by non-educators more for political and profit motives than educational ones.

If we want more teachers, we must make the profession attractive financially and creatively. Let teachers do what they do best — teach!

David Greene, experienced teacher of teachers, read an article in The Economist about teaching teachers, and he got steamed. Guess who is training the best teachers? The corporate-funded Relay “Graduate School of Education,” where none of the “professors” has a doctorate. Relay is a program where charter teachers teach future charter teachers how to raise test scores. To call it a “graduate school of education” is an insult to real graduate schools, where professors are scholars and masters of their field. “Raising test scores” is not a field. Which economists think that the Relay way is the best way? Tom Kane, Eric Hanushek, Roland Fryer.

The article cites the favorite myths of the economists:

Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford University, has estimated that during an academic year pupils taught by teachers at the 90th percentile for effectiveness learn 1.5 years’ worth of material. Those taught by teachers at the 10th percentile learn half a year’s worth. Similar results have been found in countries from Britain to Ecuador. “No other attribute of schools comes close to having this much influence on student achievement,” he says.

Rich families find it easier to compensate for bad teachers, so good teaching helps poor kids the most. Having a high-quality teacher in primary school could “substantially offset” the influence of poverty on school test scores, according to a paper co-authored by Mr Hanushek. Thomas Kane of Harvard University estimates that if African-American children were all taught by the top 25% of teachers, the gap between blacks and whites would close within eight years. He adds that if the average American teacher were as good as those at the top quartile the gap in test scores between America and Asian countries would be closed within four years.

The assumption behind these theories is that children who live in poverty, who are homeless, and who lack medical care get low test scores because of “bad teachers.” These economists stubbornly refuse to believe that the stressful conditions of these children’s lives depress their test scores. There is no evidence for the claim by Kane that the achievement gap between blacks and whites would close within eight years if all African American children were taught by teachers in the top 25%. Despite reformers’ total control of Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Denver, and (for nearly a decade under Mayor Bloomberg) New York City. None of these cities has closed the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots or between blacks and whites. The whole premise of this argument rests on the assumption that the “best teachers” produce the highest test scores. But other researchers and such esteemed organizations as the American Statistical Association dispute the validity of judging teachers by the test scores of their students. If a teacher is teaching children with cognitive disabilities, English language learners, or gifted children, he or she will have small or no test score gains as compared to a teacher in a well-resourced affluent community. Are the teachers in such circumstances “bad teachers”? No.

As David Greene points out, The Economist knows nothing about teaching:

ON TEACHING THE TEACHERS:

The Economist June 11, 2016

Whoever said this? “Great teaching has long been seen as an innate skill.

But reformers are showing that the best teachers are made, not born.”

How condescending can this be? This article implies that teachers don’t know that?

“Mr. Cavanagh is the product of a new way of training teachers. Rather than spending their time musing on the meaning of education, he and his peers have been drilled in the craft of the classroom.”

No. This is not new. He is actually the result of good training that has gone on for a long time. Hey guess what… reformers haven’t reinvented the wheel.

This has been true for decades: “Like doctors on the wards of teaching hospitals, its students often train at excellent institutions, learning from experienced high-caliber peers.”

It is how I learned from a cooperative master teacher when I student taught for a semester and how I received mentoring from my Principals, Assistant Principals, and department chairs for 38 years, not just the first.

This too has always been true: “teaching for what it is: not an innate gift, nor a refuge for those who, as the old saw has it, “can’t do”, but ‘an incredibly intricate, complex and beautiful craft’.”

“But a question has dogged policymakers: are great teachers born or made? Prejudices played out in popular culture suggest the former.”

First, policy makers have never known the truth about the hard work in developing good teachers. And, why listen to pop culture and not experienced teachers?

The “myth of the naturally born teacher” is, of course, a myth. Again this is not startling or new news. Why is it to the author, or to policy makers? As for any other successful professional, quality is a combination of nature and nurture. My cardio-thoracic surgeons who saved my life were gifted because they both had natural talent and developed skills.

It is mostly the others who think this: “A fair chunk of what teachers (and others) believe about teaching is wrong.” Most teachers KNOW how hard it is to develop the necessary skills.

Let’s also not lump these all together. “Unearned praise, grouping by ability and accepting or encouraging children’s different “learning styles” are widely espoused but bad ideas. So too is the notion that pupils can discover complex ideas all by themselves.”

Unearned praise is not a teacher thing…. It is a parenting thing. We know the truth. Good teachers and administrators always have known that heterogeneous grouping works best. Again, try selling that to often biased helicopter parents. We also know that students do learn differently.

Again… We always have done this as well: “Teachers must impart knowledge and critical thinking.”

These 6 aspects of great teaching have also been passed down from professional to professional: motivation, collaboration time management, proper behavior and high, yet reachable, expectations, high-quality instruction and so-called “pedagogical content knowledge”—a blend of subject knowledge and teaching craft.”

Any principal master teacher worth her or his salt already knows: “I don’t teach physics; I teach my pupils how to learn physics.”

He left one thing out. “ I teach kids to learn to love learning.”

To infer that these are new ideas and not the common best practices of generations of teachers before Relay and its ilk showed up is a pure and unadulterated insult.

“Too often teachers are told what to improve, but not given clear guidance on how to make that change.” Yet more often they are.

I will agree that many schools of education must change. I have been saying that since I was relatively well trained back in the late 60s. Many besides myself have been hounding US schools of education to do more craft work and less theoretical. Absolutely, they should incorporate a longer student teaching or residency program.

Does this reporter look into the large and growing number of school districts in the USA who have mandated veteran teacher mentors to new teachers?

Apparently not. These districts already knew what Roland Fryer of Harvard University found: “managed professional development”, where teachers receive precise instruction together with specific, regular feedback under the mentorship of a lead teacher, had large positive effects.”

“Such environments are present in schools such as Match and North Star—and in areas such as Shanghai and Singapore”…AND IN DISTRICTS ALL ACROSS THE USA!

And of course good teachers here have always known and complained about this: “Mr. Fryer says that American school districts “pay people in inverse proportion to the value they add”. District superintendents make more money than teachers although their impact on pupils’ lives is less.”

The article warps the image of teachers in the USA. This reporter needs to get a fuller picture of the good work that has been done in teacher preparation as well as what reformers say only they can do. Shame!

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