Archives for category: Teachers

Justin Parmenter, an NBCT teacher in North Carolina, published this article in the Charlotte Observer.

As COVID-19 rates skyrocket in North Carolina and more educators lose their lives to the virus, an unmistakable trend is starting to emerge: school districts falling all over themselves to claim the infected employee didn’t get the virus at work.

When Stanly County teacher Julie Davis died last month, superintendent Vicki Calvert quickly issued a statement saying, “there is no information from the local health department indicating Mrs. Davis contracted the COVID-19 virus from any staff member or student on campus.” 

Davis’s family spoke of her extreme vigilance in avoiding situations where infections could occur, wearing a mask whenever out of the house and doing all of her shopping by curbside and drive-through. She was apprehensive about returning to school because of the increased risk but did so anyway.

Julie Davis got sick at the end of September and passed away on October 4. Her brother said Davis was convinced she got the virus at school. A student who attended the school (not one of hers) had tested positive, and she was unaware of any other time she would have been in the same space with someone who had COVID-19.

Just a week after Davis passed away, Stanly County Schools was forced to close to in-person instruction due to out-of-control COVID-19 infections in the community and in the schools.

The school’s superintendent said school officials didn’t believe Ward contracted the virus at work. However, her daughter said, “We don’t really know [where she got the virus] because she never really went out. She definitely wore her mask, she definitely hand sanitized. She did everything the CDC told us to.”

On Monday, Winston-Salem teacher assistant Teresa Gaither passed away after serving students at Easton Elementary for 23 years. A school spokesman wouldn’t confirm the cause but was eager to explain that she didn’t get it at work, saying, “At this time, the Forsyth County Department of Public Health has given WS/FCS no indication that Ms. Gaither’s cause of death was related to her employment.” Her colleagues confirmed that Gaither died of COVID-19.

In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where the district has just begun reporting COVID-19 infections by school, a WBTV report this week said school officials “do not believe students and staff are testing positive because they are back inside the classroom. They say students (and) staff and getting sick from circumstances outside of the school.” 

Here’s what public relations-minded school districts are implying when they claim that a COVID-19 infection had nothing to do with school: Somewhere, somehow that individual made a careless error which led to their illness. It had nothing to do with insufficient safety protocols, asymptomatic carriers, or a lack of resources.

There’s nothing to see here, folks. Mask up and wash your hands, everyone. Just lean in and we’ll be fine.

Could we please have the decency to admit that, in many of these cases, we have no idea where they got it? While it is possible these educators contracted the virus outside of school, it’s just as likely that they didn’t. We simply don’t know.

What we do know about this virus is that the only way to truly stay safe from it is to avoid crowded public places, perform regular disinfection and ensure proper ventilation and clean air flow when we must share space with others. Those conditions are hard to come by in a public school.

These educators who have lost their lives during the pandemic have been forced to choose between increasing their risk of infection by returning to in-person instruction and not being able to feed their kids or pay their mortgage.

Many of our educators have been vocal in calling for a return to school only when we can be reasonably certain it’s safe, with maximum social distancing, effective contact tracing, safe HVAC systems and sufficient staff. In far too many cases they’ve been forced back to the classrooms they love with none of those things.

In light of their dedication to serving our children despite a raging pandemic, it’s the least we can do to stop blaming our educators for getting COVID-19.


Read more here: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article247165609.html#storylink=cpy

I have written in the past about why Jen Mangrum would be a superb State Superintendent in North Carolina. She is an experienced teacher and teacher educator. She knows what teachers need to succeed. She has been endorsed by the state teachers’ association. She is also courageous. In 2018, she ran against the most powerful state legislator, Phil Berger.

Now a few words about her opponent, Catherine Truitt. North Carolina teacher Justin Parmenter reveals that Truitt received the maximum allowable donation from a millionaire who hates public schools and teachers. He has founded a string of charter and private schools. He thinks that public schools are hotbeds of Marxism where teachers “feed poison” to their students.

Follow the money. Vote for Jen Mangrum.

Jennifer Berkshire writes in this post about the educational awakening in Arizona, the result of #red4ed and the teachers’ revolt of 2018.

Proposition 208 is on the ballot. It calls for a 3.5% tax increase on people earning over $250,000 a year, to be used to raise teachers’ salaries and hire more teachers. Surprisingly, 60% of voters appear to favor the measure, including a sizable number of Republicans.

She writes:

That taxing the rich to pay for schools would emerge as a cause with bipartisan support in 2020 is not a complete surprise. More Arizonans now identify education, not immigration, as the top priority facing the state, reflecting mounting concern with schools that are notoriously underfunded, teachers who are poorly paid, and a teacher shortage crisis so severe that 28 percent of the state’s classrooms lack a permanent teacher.

Education has become a potent political issue since #RedforEd protests shone a harsh light on the condition of Arizona’s schools in 2018. After a historic teacher strike, educators doubled down on electoral organizing. Democrats gained four seats in the state House of Representatives that year. Now they’re poised to tip the House and possibly the Senate in their favor. If they succeed, voter dissatisfaction with the GOP’s embrace of controversial policies aimed at dismantling, defunding, and privatizing education will be a major reason.

A similar pattern is playing out in other key battleground states, including Michigan and Texas. In these states and others, the gulf between voters who believe in taxpayer-funded public education and GOP candidates who are hostile to it has created an opening for Democrats.

For decades, Arizona has been a petri dish for free market education experiments. Charter schools, publicly funded private schools, education savings accounts that allow parents to spend taxpayer funds on a dizzying array of education “options” with little state oversight or accountability—the Grand Canyon State has them all...

As school choice offerings in the state have ballooned, they have increasingly competed for funding with traditional public schools. “It all comes out of the same funding bucket, and the bucket wasn’t that big to begin with,” said Sharon Kirsch, research director for the grassroots public education advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona...

That hands-off, regulation-free vision is precisely what an array of deep-pocketed interest groups in Arizona are pushing. Organizations like the Americans for Prosperity, funded by Charles Koch and the American Federation for Children, founded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, are a major presence in the state. More recent arrivals to the school choice lobbying space include Yes Every Kid, which is another Koch project, and Love Your School, an offshoot of the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy.

Said Kirsch: “I’m not sure most people have any idea that these groups are essentially running education policy in Arizona...”

Berkshire points out that teachers are running for office, and their prospects look good. Arizona may be about to throw off the shackles of one-party rule that has crippled the state’s public schools and turned it into a free-market for privatizers, religious zealots, rightwing nuts, libertarians, and profiteers.

The Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance is led by Professor Paul Peterson, an advocate for school choice. It would not be off the mark to say that PEPG exists to promote the DeVos agenda. Soon after she was confirmed, PEPG invited her to speak, and her speech was disrupted by Harvard students not affiliated with PEPG. Peterson has been the mentor for a generation of pro-school choice academics, including Jay Greene (University of Arkansas, Department of Education Reform), Patrick Wolf (same, also served as “independent evaluator” of Milwaukee and DC voucher prigrams), and Martin West (Harvard Graduate School of Education). Peterson recently appeared at the White House to support Trump’s call to reopen schools and co-wrote an oped with Dr. Scott Atlas (both are senior fellows at the rightwing Hoover Institution). Dr. Atlas supports Trump’s views that mask-wearing should not be mandatory, that children and adolescents don’t get the virus, th ast schools should reopen without delay, and that lockdowns are unnecessary. In many articles about Dr. Atlas, Peterson is his reliable defender.

The event today asks whether teachers unions can be part of the solution. Michelle Rhee and George Parker. Parker was head of the Washington Teachers Union when Rhee was chancellor. When he stepped down, he went to work for Rhee. He now works for a charter school lobbying group. More than 90% of charters are non-union.

Fall 2020 Colloquium Series: Can Teachers Unions Be Part of the Solution?

The PEPG Colloquium series continues Thursday, Sept. 24, with “Can Teachers Unions Be Part of the Solution?,” a talk by Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO, StudentsFirst, former Chancellor for District of Columbia Public Schools, and George Parker, Senior Advisor, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, former President, District of Columbia Teachers Union.

Thursday, Sept. 24
12-1:15 p.m.
Register to attend the Zoom webinar

Nancy Shively is a special education teacher in Oklahoma. She is a lifelong Republican. She voted for Trump in 2016. She now knows this was a huge mistake that has put her life and the lives of her colleagues at risk. She has switched her registration to independent and will vote for Joe Biden this time.

Her vote for Trump, she fears, may have been tantamount to signing her death warrant.

She writes:

I live and teach in a small Oklahoma town. It’s not far from the site of President Trump’s Tulsa campaign rally on June 20 that appears, as common sense would have predicted, to be a super-spreader event. About two weeks after the rally, Tulsa County reported a record high number of cases…

I am over 60, with two autoimmune diseases. This outbreak has me worried as it is. Now, with the prospect of schools reopening in a few short weeks, I am terrified.

And I am not the only one. One young teacher I know has chronic kidney problems and is at high risk for complications if she contracts COVID-19. She can’t quit her only source of income. Taking its cue from our governor, who hosted Trump’s rally and has now tested positive for COVID-19 himself, her school district has announced that wearing a mask will be optional, though the state is considering requiring it…

Our country has long devalued and underpaid teachers, refusing to adequately fund the public schools that support our democracy. At the same time, teachers routinely have to use their own money to buy classroom supplies. Now the government is turning to us to risk our health or possibly our lives during a pandemic. My school district has no mask mandate and two nurses for more than 2,400 students in 5 school buildings. How is that going to work?…

Teaching is a calling and Oklahoma teachers are as tough as they come. Some have sheltered their students as a tornado ripped the school building from over their heads. Most of us would do anything to help our students succeed.

So now the man I gambled on to be president is asking us to risk our health and our very lives. The odds are most definitely not in our favor.

A decade ago, Richard Phelps was assessment director of the District of Columbia Public Schools. His time in that position coincided with the last ten months of Michelle Rhee’s tenure in office. When her patron Adrian Fenty lost the election for Mayor, Rhee left and so did Phelps.

Phelps writes here about what he learned while trying to improve the assessment practices of the DC Public Schools. He posts his overview in two parts, and this is part 1. The second part will appear in the next post.

Rhee asked Phelps to expand the VAM program–the use of test scores to evaluate teachers and to terminate or reward them based on student scores.

Phelps described his visits to schools to meet with teachers. He gathered useful ideas about how to make the assessments more useful to teachers and students.

Soon enough, he learned that the Central Office staff, including Rhee, rejected all the ideas he collected from teachers and imposed their own ideas instead.

He writes:

In all, I had polled over 500 DCPS school staff. Not only were all of their suggestions reasonable, some were essential in order to comply with professional assessment standards and ethics.

Nonetheless, back at DCPS’ Central Office, each suggestion was rejected without, to my observation, any serious consideration. The rejecters included Chancellor Rhee, the head of the office of Data and Accountability—the self-titled “Data Lady,” Erin McGoldrick—and the head of the curriculum and instruction division, Carey Wright, and her chief deputy, Dan Gordon.

Four central office staff outvoted several-hundred school staff (and my recommendations as assessment director). In each case, the changes recommended would have meant some additional work on their parts, but in return for substantial improvements in the testing program. Their rhetoric was all about helping teachers and students; but the facts were that the testing program wasn’t structured to help them.

What was the purpose of my several weeks of school visits and staff polling? To solicit “buy in” from school level staff, not feedback.

Ultimately, the new testing program proposal would incorporate all the new features requested by senior Central Office staff, no matter how burdensome, and not a single feature requested by several hundred supportive school-level staff, no matter how helpful. Like many others, I had hoped that the education reform intention of the Rhee-Henderson years was genuine. DCPS could certainly have benefitted from some genuine reform.

Alas, much of the activity labelled “reform” was just for show, and for padding resumes. Numerous central office managers would later work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Numerous others would work for entities supported by the Gates or aligned foundations, or in jurisdictions such as Louisiana, where ed reformers held political power. Most would be well paid.

Their genuine accomplishments, or lack thereof, while at DCPS seemed to matter little. What mattered was the appearance of accomplishment and, above all, loyalty to the group. That loyalty required going along to get along: complicity in maintaining the façade of success while withholding any public criticism of or disagreement with other in-group members.

The Central Office “reformers” boasted of their accomplishments and went on to lucrative careers.

It was all for show, financed by Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, and other philanthropists who believed in the empty promises of “reform.” It was a giant hoax.

The most important concern about reopening schools is the health and safety of students and staff. The Trump administration has adamantly refused to provide funding to states and cities to enable them to make schools as safe as they should be.

As a result, Newsweek reports, significant numbers of teachers are quitting. This is a blow to students and schools across the nation.

It was hard to recruit teachers before the pandemic. How will these teachers be replaced?

Veteran K-12 teachers in states across the U.S. are resigning and retiring at higher rates as schools begin reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic this fall, with educators citing the stress tied to remote learning, technical difficulties and COVID-19 health concerns.

Several teachers who recently resigned, retired or opted out of their jobs ahead of pandemic reopening efforts say leaving their kids has been hard, but remote learning has made their jobs too difficult. One Florida teacher said she became paranoid due to the constant requirement of being live-streamed to dozens of students throughout all hours of the day. And an Arizona high school science teacher said he resigned from a job he loves after his district voted to return students to in-person classroom learning—creating a health risk he and many other teachers say they aren’t willing to take.

In New York State, teacher retirements are up 20 percent from 2019, according to data from the New York State Teacher Retirement System. About 650 teachers filed for retirement between July and early August alone.

A number of K-12 teachers said much of the joy they received from personal interaction with students has been undermined or eliminated altogether by teaching through a computer screen rather than a classroom.

“I had to consider the health of my family. I am a science teacher. We gather evidence and we make decisions. If there is competing data, we look at both and weigh them,” Kevin Fairhurst, who resigned from his teaching position at Arizona’s Queen Creek Unified School District on August 13, told Healthline. “The data from the experts in our health field suggested we should not yet be teaching in person because of the potential for this to cause more outbreaks.”

Fairhurst is among nine of 17 science teachers at two of the district’s high schools who have quit in the past few months. Students and teachers at school districts around the country receive daily temperature checks and are required to wear masks—even on recess playgrounds—as administrators are aiming to eliminate the chance of spreading COVID-19.

Lucas Smolcic Larson writes in the Island Packet about the views of teachers concerning the return to school.

The S.C. McClatchy newspapers asked educators if they felt ready to return to school during the coronavirus pandemic. Over 250 teachers, librarians, coaches and other educators from every corner of the state responded to the survey. The vast majority work at public schools, with about two-thirds reporting they will be required to teach students face-to-face starting this month or next.”

The teachers quoted are anonymous, for obvious reasons. Most are worried. Some are fearful.

Here are a few of the responses:

Lowcountry, more than 10 years. Everyone is confused, overwhelmed and plans are changing daily. Bottom line, I do not feel safe or valued.

Upstate, more than 10 years. My husband and I are both teachers. We have three young children. We updated our will last week. The stress and anxiety we are all feeling is affecting my entire family.

Midlands, 5-10 years. I expect to be exposed and possibly contract COVID. I am attempting to prepare my home and family if this occurs, and I have to quarantine … We have to look to our medical professionals as to how to handle this situation … They could not opt out of not going to work and neither can the educational professionals. Now is the time for us to step up, mask up and do our part to help our children.

Lowcountry, more than 10 years. It’s not a question of if there’s (going to be) an outbreak at school but WHEN. I feel like a pawn for the politicians and administrators. We teach so as to empower students in our classrooms, yet here we are totally dis-empowered as teachers. These cracks were evident before COVID-19, but the pandemic has widened them into canyons.

Arthur Goldstein, a veteran New York City high school teacher, warns that New York City public schoools cannot open unless they are safe for students and staff. He wrote an open letter to staff at his school. The signs and portents of a strike by the city’s United Federation of Teachers are looming in the background.

He writes, in part,

Every time I read someone advocating opening buildings, they have a proviso. They say of course, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll go back to remote learning. In fact there are a lot of places where it didn’t work out, and they did just that. There’s Israel, South Korea, multiple schools in the south and southwest, and universities that saw immediate rises in infection levels, while starting below Mayor de Blasio’s much ballyhooed 3% positive level (so much for that). Chapel Hill closed in one week.

There’s a real cost to these openings, and that cost is the health of those who attend. I know some of you who’ve been very sick. I know some of you who’ve lost family members. I’ve had family members sick, and I lost a friend.

The whole country is looking to us as the only major city that can possibly open school buildings. UFT has looked at this, and decided that if we are to open, the only way to do it is safely. We’ve therefore consulted with medical experts, some of whom you can see at Mulgrew’s press conference, and concluded the only way to deal with the virus was to actively test for it and trace it.

We don’t want a single educator or student to get sick. We don’t want any students or employees bringing COVID home to their families. The UFT demands for testing were created in consultation with medical experts. They are beyond reasonable; they are visionary. We’ve looked at the failures and determined ways to preclude them. Our testing demands are based on science. The mayor’s opposition is based on hiding his head in the sand and hoping for the best.

Here is a checklist of what UFT will be looking at as we visit every building in the city. UFT also demands a Covid Building Response Team to create protocols for how students will move when entering and leaving school, and also to map out responses to issues that may occur. Finally, to ensure safety, we demand that everyone entering the school building be tested for the virus. We demand random testing to ensure we stay safe.

UFT will not allow its members or the students we serve to be veritable canaries in a coal mine. Dr. Fauci can talk about how we’re part of a great experiment, but we refuse to be guinea pigs. We refuse to make guinea pigs of our families, our students, or their families. If Mayor de Blasio refuses to make schools safe, we will refuse to work.

In an amazingly alarming move, the state of Missouri plans to lower standards for substitute teachers.

One superintendent of a rural district has floated the idea of bringing in National Guard units as substitute teachers. Matt Davis, superintendent of Eldon, Missouri, schools, made the suggestion to Gov. Mike Parson in a July meeting, according to a report in the Fulton Sun.

On Tuesday, the Missouri board of education made it easier to become a substitute teacher under an emergency rule, although the change was in the works before the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of the previous requirement of 60 hours of college credit, eligible substitute teachers must now hold a high school diploma, complete a 20-hour online training course and pass a background check.

In other words, Missouri doesn’t care about the quality of teachers. Any warm body will do.