Posted tagged ‘education reform’

Parasitic “Reformers” Upset as Obey Tries to Save “Edujobs”

July 1, 2010

What is an edujob?  An edujob is a fancy way that some supposed reformers like to refer to teachers.  It sounds like these are jobs that add nothing to a school and simply are adults getting in the way of a child’s education—what’s sad is that is exactly how many of these so-called reformers feel about teachers. With a new Twilight movie opening last night to the delight of junior high school girls across the country, it’s ironic that the educational vampires are out in force today, looking to suck the life blood out of public education in the name of profit.

So why the Orwellian language?   The answer is simple.  Who with one degree of common sense would push for building more charter schools or Race to the Trough funding for innovation, while at the same time cutting hundreds of thousands of teachers from the schools of this country and jamming more and more students into a classroom?

Congressman David Obey (D-WI) seeing the crisis that some have referred to as a teacherpocalypse has tried to cobble together the funds to save teacher jobs.  His bill would would cut $500 million from the Race to the Top, $200 million from the teacher incentive fund (TIF), and $100 million from the charter school program.  It would also secure $10 billion to save 140,000 teacher jobs in this coming school year.

Congressman  Obey explained his action this way,  “When a ship is sinking, you don’t worry about redesigning a room, you worry about keeping it afloat.”

His point is that without qualified teachers in the classroom, what is the point of education reforms–especially when many of them are designed to track teacher performance.  If you have nobody to track, there is no reason to pay money to track them. Unfortunately, those profiteers who see a $400 billion dollar industry and want a nice healthy slice, are up in arms. Again using Orwellian language they ask people to sign the Stand4Children petition unaware of the irony when students in public school classrooms could be jammed in so tightly next year that there are no room for students to do anything, but stand.

Support Representative Obey’s bill to at least keep public school class sizes at a level that frankly is already too large, to keep qualified and certified teachers in the classroom where the latest study shows they continue to outperform their charter school peers, keep education free from the greedy hands of hedge fund managers, and support keeping public education public.  Call your Member of Congress via the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and let them know you support the Obey amendment for education.

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CORE Wins!

June 13, 2010

After an election on may 21st that saw CORE and UPC each take about 1/3 of the Chicago Teachers Union votes, it all came down to a runoff between CTU and CORE on this past Friday, June 11th. The result was a resounding CORE victory 60% to 40%. For me personally, it means I will be a delegate to the AFT convention and one of 17 elementary school advisers to the union. To the teachers, parents, and students of Chicago I believe it means hope.

The Chicago Public Schools waited until after all the teachers had voted Friday to announce an emergency board meeting for this coming Tuesday. The purpose of that meeting is to clear the way to be able to fire 3,000 teachers in a cost cutting move. The 3,000 teachers won’t find out until the middle of July for the most part, after virtually all teaching jobs are filled. They will then have until September to find a job or lose all seniority, cutting their pay drastically and taking away their tenure. Meanwhile, the children of Chicago can look forward to classes of 35 next year. CORE is taking over in the middle of a crisis and that kind of sucks, but there is nobody I’d rather have lead us through a crisis.

Teachers are going to need to mobilize and that’s difficult. Nobody signed up to teach to be a labor agitator, but unfortunately, we can’t do the job we love unless we do.

Supposed Education Reformers Don’t Do Irony

April 20, 2010

Following the #RTTT channel on Twitter, I’ve noticed that the neo-liberal education reformers who post on there seem terribly deficient in their ability to notice irony.   Maybe that’s why so many people who seem intent on destroying the public  education system as we know it and exacerbating the differences between the haves and have nots always have happy fuzzy bunny names like Education Equality Now or something.  If you want to understand neo-liberal education reform, you have to follow the money and that means following it into dark alleys.   There’s a reason that Goldman-Sachs has been so active in promoting this garbage.   There’s a great deal of money at stake here if you know where to look.

New York: Some supporters of New York Charter schools have been fuming at the thought of an open discussion about charter schools.  Instead they want to blindly raise the charter cap.  In the New York Post today Thomas Carroll cried union conspiracy. I can’t help wondering if it’s his own misdeeds that have him scared.  The main villain in this drama is State Senator Bill Perkins who has called for a public hearing.  In the hearing notice he says, “The purpose of this hearing is to examine the business of charter schools by reviewing their development as a privatized solution to public education.  Towards this end, we will hear from parents, educators, legislators, elected officials, advocates, charter operators, and other relevant authorities at the city and state level.”  Scandalous.  I can see why those education reformers who keep saying we need more accountability would be terrified of such a hearing.

West Virginia: If anything should have reminded this country of the importance of labor unions, it was the explosion at a Massey Coal Mine in West Virginia a few ago.   There was an excellent writeup of the American Legislative Exchange Council and their role in the Massey tragedy.   What the article leaves out is the soulless right wing’s involvement in the education reform movement.  Do a google search on ALEC and education and you get plenty of that terrific free market anti-union chatter.   Don’t be fooled.   They’re against coal miners being unionized just as much as they’re against teachers being unionized.

Florida: Governor Charlie Crist has been viciously attacked for vetoing one of the most misguided education reforms ever to make it through a state legislature (and that’s saying something).   The SB6 legislation would have ended tenure and seniority as well as a lot of local control and give all teachers a salary based on one standardized test.  The Republican governor said his April 15 veto was not about politics. But he acknowledged an outpouring of opposition by teachers, parents, and local school officials around the state had an effect.  The response to the veto was swift:

Neal Boortz said, “Crist traded improvements for Florida government schools and the welfare of students for support from the teacher’s unions for an independent bid for the Senate Seat. For Crist political power and perks come before the welfare of Florida’s schoolchildren.”

It is very disappointing that Governor Crist abandoned the children of Florida and sided with the teachers union,” Gingrich said. “Florida had a real chance to reform education on behalf of children.”

What nobody seemed to point out in questioning whether Crist was for sale in his opposition to this great piece of legislation was that the bill’s sponsor James Thrasher was already bought and paid for by two out of state testing companies  who gave Thrasher’s lobbying firm up to $190,000 in cash between 2008-2009.  Yep, sometimes you just have to follow the money.

The Solution to Texas Textbooks

March 15, 2010

To watch my fellow liberals rub their hands and shake their heads in frustration over reports of the Texas Board of Education’s new social studies curriculum could almost be amusing if it wasn’t so sad.   It isn’t that I don’t understand how terrible it is to see people like Cesar Chavez and Thomas Jefferson written out of Texas history books in favor of Focus on the Family and the National Rifle Association.   The problem is that I heard hardly a whimper when education reformers were pushing reform agendas that push reading and math instruction to the exclusion of all else.   Face it, if your child is in an American school in 5 years, she probably won’t be learning conservative Texas style history.   She probably won’t be learning any history at all.

Equally ironic is that there is one defense for a school board that omits the separation of church and state and Ann Hutchinson from American history for political reasons.   That defense is a teacher with a knowledge and passion for history that doesn’t mind spending time to bring in resources to teach students the other side.   A teacher who can bring in outside resources and explain to students why things like the first amendment are such an important part of what this country is about is a godsend to any school that values open minded intelligent students who make up their own minds.

Unfortunately, a parent who might be a bit to the right of your average tea party member could become very upset if such a teacher were to not give Ronald Reagan his proper beatification.  Ordinarily, this isn’t a problem if that knowledgeable and passionate teacher has tenure.  Tenure protects teachers from crackpots in the community and even on the school board by requiring just cause before termination.   It lets them talk about controversial things like evolution and Thomas Jefferson.  That’s why maybe the current assault on tenure is a bit shortsighted.  Tenure isn’t employment for life, but it does allow teachers to teach.

What Doesn’t Work: AUSL

March 6, 2010

Over the past decade, turnaround schools have been tried hundreds if not thousands of times across the country.  A turnaround is what just happened in Central Falls where all the teachers are let go, a select few are rehired, and the school brings in a new principal and faculty to work their educational magic.  Sometimes, the school is taken over by a charter and sometimes it’s done under a program like AUSL in Chicago.   Today, in a blog posting entitled What’s Possible: Turning Around America’s Lowest-Achieving Schools, The United States Department of Education put 3 slickly produced videos together and pointed them out as proof that the turnaround model works just great.

Keep in mind that the DOE cherry picked these 3 schools.   They didn’t talk about the Green Dot in Watts where not a single student is meeting or exceeding.  They didn’t talk about the many turnaround failures, or the turnarounds that have had to be turned around again because the first turnaround didn’t work (If you make two 180 degree turns, aren’t you back where you started?).   They picked these three shining stars:

AUSL: This is the program in Chicago that over a thousand parents came out to protest this year.   The idea is that if you take a bunch of first year teachers and put them with a novice administrator somehow there will be educational magic created.  Students who sign on with AUSL agree to work four years at their AUSL school and if they leave early they have to repay part or all of their education.

One of the keys to success for AUSL has been to weed out students.   Yes, schools are supposed to educate everybody, but that doesn’t quite fit the AUSL model where suspensions and expulsions are commonplace.  Those expelled students are sent elsewhere–usually to a lucky public school down the road.  These stats are from PURE (Parents United for Responsible Education):

Drop out rates of course go through the roof at AUSL schools and test scores do go up.  Well, in most cases they do thanks to a large influx of funding.  However, let’s look at the Value Added scores that were developed by University of Wisconsin researchers and compare a student’s year-to-year growth on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test with growth made by demographically similar students from across the district.  These scores are the new buzz in education data:

[Click on the graph to enlarge to full size]

The test scores show Johnson going backwards.  Very few schools in the city appear in the red showing a negative growth, yet despite many resources that public schools don’t have access too and despite getting rid of the bad apples, Johnson is still dropping.   Before the turnaround, the scores at Johnson were actually on the way up.  Now that they go backwards, the Department of Education salutes them.

In exchange for poor test scores, you take students with little stability in their lives and make their school setting unstable.  If they had any close relationships with adults in their building, they’re gone too.   How long do the new AUSL teachers last at their schools?  Out of AUSL’s first graduating class from the program in 2003, six are still in education and one remains at the school they were originally assigned to.

I’ll post about the groundbreaking Green Dot schools next.   Green Dot founder Steve Barr left the organization after a small matter of embezzling $50,000.   If you believe that a school should pay its faculty more than its PR department, I think you’ll enjoy their story as well.

Race To The Top – Sweet Sixteen Preview

March 4, 2010

What do you expect when you have a basketball player and not an educator leading the Department of Education.

Judgment at Central Falls Part 3

February 20, 2010

Central Falls Police Sgt. Wayne Solan carries a shotgun at the main entrance of Central Falls High School

[Continued from Part 2]

It was a wet Rhode Island Monday April 28, 2008 when Maida Lopez entered Central Falls High School.   There were already over 40 parents in a chaotic jumble in the main office trying to find their children so they could bring them home from school for the day.   The city of Central Falls has big city problems.  In the 1980s, it was called the cocaine capital of New England, but it was still a postage stamp size town of just over a square mile.   Over the weekend, two teenage boys had been shot and killed including 16-year-old Central Falls student Edelmiro Roman who was found unarmed at the corner of Dexter and Darling Streets, possibly in retaliation for the killing of a 19-year-old boy the night before.  This is life in Central Falls.

I won’t paint the town as overly bleak.  Like anywhere in America, the vast majority of the people here are hardworking and trying to get by.  The town’s median income is only $22,000 and many of the residents are immigrants from all over the world.   Central Falls Guidance Counselor George McLaughlin says, “There is an odd sort of respect in that school for teachers.”  He points out that while kids will sometimes spout an obscenity at a teacher, they will put a “sir” at the end of it.

Central Falls High School has the most transient student population in the state, the highest percentage of students who don’t speak English and a high percentage of special-needs students. More than 90 percent of students live in poverty.  This isn’t to say the students aren’t capable, but when you grow up in this environment, you usually have more important things on your mind than who to ask to the prom.   Teachers are constantly adjusting and readjusting to classes that don’t end the year with many of the students who began the year.   Transient students are also far more likely to drop out and as a result Central Falls has had their graduation rate suffer.

Despite difficult circumstances these teachers are making a difference.   It simply isn’t in the political interests of the district to acknowledge it.   Disraeli is credited with the famous quote,  “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

When Superintendent Gallo points to standardized test scores that supposedly show Central Falls failing she doesn’t point out, on the 2009 NECAP reading scores (teaching year), Central Falls is right in the middle of the state’s large urban high schools. At 56% proficiency they are behind the lower-poverty ones (Tolman, 64%; Shea, 62%; Woonsocket, 60%), tied with The MET and Providence Academy for International Studies, and ahead of Central (51%), Hope Leadership (49%), Hope IT (47%), and Alvarez (44%) in Providence.

The Hope schools are of particular note since they went through a “fire the teachers” restructuring process a few years ago. There is no particular reason to expect the results of Central Falls restructuring to be any different.  Now, I don’t believe that standardized tests show you much outside of household income, but Central Falls ranking among similar schools is never mentioned nor is the fact that these same students at Central Falls only had 22% proficiency on the 7th grade tests, 5 years earlier.

Students at Central Falls do the same things that dedicated teachers in all urban districts do.   They help take over some of the responsibilities that would be taken care of by parents in more affluent communities–including providing clothing, food, and support when parents are unable too.  They make the best of a bad situation and they try and produce scholars.   Sometimes, the burdens are too much and they succeed only in producing solid citizens.   Sometimes, the best you can do is provide a safe place for 7 hours a day where a student can be warm and fed.   The teachers who can do these things day in and day out deserve respect and admiration.   Instead they usually get vitriol.   In the final part of this series, I will explain why Central Falls is so important to the future of education in this country.

[Continued in Part 4]