Monday, March 29, 2010

It’s not a game

Darren over at Right on the Left Coast (blogroll) posted this news story from the Sacramento Bee before I did.  I’ll just take his post because it pretty much sums up the issue.

In the zero-sum game of school district budgets, there's only so much money to go around. If a district's budget is slashed, cuts have to be made somewhere. Should there be pay cuts? Should employees work for free a few days? Should there be furlough days? Should health insurance plans be restructured, perhaps by increasing co-payments? How about layoffs?
The teachers in the Sacramento City Unified School District don't want to bargain any of these things until next summer, when their contract runs out. Correction, the Sac City union doesn't want to bargain any of these things until next summer, when their contract runs out.

(Quoting the Sacramento Bee)

“Dozens of teachers expressed to the (Sacramento) Bee a willingness to accept furlough days and/or higher co-pays but feel their union leadership is ignoring their pleas to save jobs.
While those teachers talked passionately about this issue, nearly all shied away from having their name printed. They said they feared retribution from the union should they need representation...
Non-tenured, young teachers are typically the ones most affected by layoffs because seniority rules dictate pink slips...
With so many teachers saying they're willing to accept concessions, (pink-slipped teacher) Taylor wonders why the union isn't listening to its members.
"It feels like the union only speaks for the people who aren't going to be affected by layoffs, the people who have been teaching 25 years," Taylor said. "There seems to be a real division in the union between the teachers who have been teaching a long time and those who are new."

Our union has acted in similar fashion, acting on a memorandum from the California Teacher’s Association that told the local units that they would gain no benefit from negotiating.  Some local units have now waited to Zero Hour and the choices look pretty ugly.  I haven’t heard how David Sanchez is going to explain his way out of this one.   

At Ukiah High School, many teachers have discussed furloughs not for months, but for over a year.  We have young, energetic staff members that are not only popular with students, but get results.  Hell, they are damn good for this community, not just the school.  In the eyes of many high school teachers, you take the damage as a collective because the students retain those good teachers and we power on through this crisis as a resilient institution.  But this political game that is played by our Union Executive Board has pretty much shown their real motive; entrench their own position, enjoy the drunk feeling of being “empowered”, and ignore the needs that are important to students.  The high school actually voted for our union to consider furloughs for this year, so that next year’s cuts are not as bad.   You know what happened?  No vote, no discussion.  They acted like the Iranian president and snuffed out the concerns of some 70 staff members in under 30 seconds.  It was sick.  Know what’s happening now?  Neither do I.  All I know is that I hear those same members asking for no pay cuts, no staff cuts, no increase in health fees, no increase in work day, no furloughs, and no end to class size reduction.  How do we make our budget manageable?  Our union doesn’t have a clue or a care.

They just enjoy the game.        

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Teach for America tells us about great teachers

Right on Left Coast (blogroll) posted a very interesting article from the Atlantic regarding a recent study conducted by Teach for America (TFA), an organization that attempts to take high ranking college graduates and place them in rough classrooms.  I've had my issues with how elements within society view Teach for America, namely the ideas around "Ivy League" schools = better teachers, and the lack of acknowledgement regarding the fairly horrid retention rates for teachers within the program. 

However, the TFA study on teachers (or the Atlantic's take on it) is a pretty darn cool analysis on the profession, dead on in some places, yet painfully naive in others.  I'm going to copy some of Darren's (Right on Left) info, since he's already done some of the leg work for me.

First, great teachers tended to set big goals for their students. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness.

This is an interesting statement coming from a society that is constantly against teachers setting big goals for their students.  While one side of their mouth demands more teacher accountability, the other side gripes about why teachers won't accommodate their trips to Costa Rica for three weeks.  I created my AP Comp Gov class with the intent to push kids in the realm of Political Science.  The class went from 18 to 24 to 70 in terms of attendance over three years.  I ran the class without an entrance exam, but with prerequisite of good U.S. History grades, good English grades, or a teacher recommendation.  What I've found is that there are not 70 Advanced Placement students in my Advanced Placement class.  That lofty goal of getting lots of students into the mode of college poli-sci has been thrown against obstacles that I really can't control.  Students missing three weeks of class, students refusing to read 25 pages in a week, students turning in sub-par work......we can demand big goals, but are we prepared to tell Seniors in high school that they are failing to meet them that they can't graduate?  What happens when teachers set big goals, say "I refuse to let you fail", and then the student pulls Senioritis?  Remember that society at one time held students accountable for lofty goals?  Let's bring that back.  As to effectiveness, that's just good teaching.  Being more effective not only helps kids, it prevents one from burnout. 

  Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process... 

See above. 

they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning

Of course, although what works and by what method is debatable.  Telling a student to prepare for a meaningless STAR test doesn't contribute to student learning since there is no incentive for the student to do the test. 

they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome

Prepare, prepare, prepare.  I just can't tell new teachers enough that you can never over-prepare, and the more prepared that you are, the smoother the lesson will go. And while creating those hideous detailed lesson plans in the Credential Program is unrealistic, you better have a written account of what you did every day so you can prepare better next time.

and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.

This is so painfully naive and stereotypical that it is frightening.  I guess all you need is for Michelle Pfeiffer and Edward James Olmos to sit in a dirty classroom and talk at students about life experiences, and that will make them learn.  Look, if you really want students to learn then you will change the system.  A teacher can work their ass off, but a student that has not had breakfast is not going to focus.  On top of that, the teacher will not be able to work their ass off because they are too busy filling out stupid paperwork for BITSA (an idiot teacher training program for rookies), or fending off parent calls that administrators can't deflect (Thank God for my admin early on).  And on top of that, the teacher won't even want to come to class that day if the working conditions are hellish, with a lack for employee safety, unsanitary conditions, horrid morale, and a constant fear that March 15 will be the day of the Reduction in Force notice (your pink slip).  The entire system should be refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls, not just teachers.

 Asking “Does anyone have any questions?” does not work, and it’s a classic rookie mistake. Students are not always the best judges of their own learning. They might understand a line read aloud from a Shakespeare play, but have no idea what happened in the last act. 

Meh, it's only a rookie mistake if you leave it at "Does anyone have any questions?".  The first step of empowering a student is giving them the opportunity to do it themselves, then you start prodding those that need the extra kick. 

“We see routines so strong that they run virtually without any involvement from the teacher. In fact, for many highly effective teachers, the measure of a well-executed routine is that it continues in the teacher’s absence.”

My lights dim, the news comes on, and I hardly have to tell kids to quiet down, and we are talking Seniors in high school.  Some kind of visual or audio clip greets the students next, then the lesson, then a little check for understanding, clarify homework, then gonzo.  Routines are a very good thing and students become very familiar with good routines and irritated when you break them.  If I used to forget my Newshour tape at home, I would hear a chorus of "What?  No Jim?".  Now the Internet let's me forget the tape and I can stream it.

The first week of class, Mr. Taylor calls all his students’ parents and gives them his cell-phone number.

Yeah, I won't be giving my students' parents my cell phone number and I shouldn't have to.  They have my e-mail, the will soon have total access to the student's attendance and grades online, and they have my full attention while at school.  I give a huge, mammoth chuck of my life for my students.  Sorry, but my wife and my own personal needs get time away from school as well.  Want to know why 3/4 of TFA teachers aren't at their original teaching assignments after five years?  Or why KIPP teacher turnover at the higher levels is significant?  It's because there is an attitude among educrats that the best teacher is the one that completely gives their lives to their students.  That's not efficient at all and leads to teacher burn-out.  Private lives are important to teachers.  You don't need to be constantly plugged into the school.

Those who initially scored high for “grit”—defined as perseverance and a passion for long-term goals, and measured using a short multiple-choice test—were 31 percent more likely than their less gritty peers to spur academic growth in their students. Gritty people, the theory goes, work harder and stay committed to their goals longer. 

Makes sense.  Teaching is all about perseverance and also bringing some of that perseverance over to your students. 

Teachers who scored high in “life satisfaction”—reporting that they were very content with their lives—were 43 percent more likely to perform well in the classroom than their less satisfied colleagues.

You're kidding?  Hmmmm, and let's see.  The number one reason that teachers quit the profession is a feeling of lack of support from administrators or an overall negative feeling about the profession.  And the current legislation going through the state and federal governments actually takes authority away from teachers and into the hands of parents, or in the hands of children who decide to screw over a test.  Very interesting.

 Meanwhile, a master’s degree in education seems to have no impact on classroom effectiveness.

Ugh, that's because Master's in Education are for Deans and Admin, not classroom teachers.  And by the way, I eventually want to go back in get my Master's, but never in Education.  Are you kidding me? 

But if school systems hired, trained, and rewarded teachers according to the principles Teach for America has identified, then teachers would not need to work so hard. They would be operating in a system designed in a radically different way—designed, that is, for success.

That's a matter of opinion.  In the very next paragraph, the author then stated that a teacher was being evaluated half by five principal observation and half by student improvement from standardized testing.  50% of this man's job is based on elementary kids taking a test?  On one day of the year?  And the fact that the students are ELL, or that some go to Mexico for a month, or that some are constantly suspended because of drug possession, or some just don't see the value in the test isn't taken into account?  Sorry, I can work and live at that school, but even a doctor can't make a patient take their medications.

Teach For America probably has some very good potential teacher candidates that will eventually become fantastic teachers.  But here's a news flash, so does Sacramento State, or Western Oregon University, or a number of other colleges that don't have "Ivy" associated with them, or "Stanford", or "University of California at....".  And once again, check the numbers.  Eight of ten Teach for America educators are out of their classroom within three years.  That's a bit worse than the average, and TFA teachers usually are in districts that need to retain those teachers for the benefit of the students.  It doesn't seem to be happening. 

Great teachers are necessary for great education.  But the news media and society needs to get away from this new message that Teach For America has a magic potion, because they really don't. 

The President of the NEA is a Hypocritical Communist Bastard

Dennis Van Roekel is the President of the National Education Association and one of the men that chooses to tax me for membership in his union.

In a recent interview with the PBS Newshour, Van Roekel made it very clear that he did not like the idea of good teachers being paid more money for good results. In his mind, teachers (using the traditional salary schedule) should be paid based on the practice, and the results should not be incorporated into salary decisions.  Notice I didn't say test scores, I said results.  So, in Van Roekel's mind, a teacher that manages to get a teenager that can't write to create a paragraph's worth of prose is just as valuable as the teacher that sits at his/her desk and shows films every day.

Collectivized education anyone?

Here's the transcript:
JOHN MERROW (PBS): But some teachers are better than others. They are. I mean, there's plenty of evidence showing that some teachers actually deliver real performance gains, and some don't. Should those teachers who deliver those performance gains make more money than the ones who don't? It's a yes-or-no question.
DENNIS VAN ROEKEL: Not only -- not based just on that factor, no.
So teachers that get the job done in an exemplary fashion shouldn't be rewarded?  Actual output doesn't matter, only the practice?

Ok Dennis, so does that mean that you're going to give that quarter million salary back to the union members that you basically steal from?  Since you are "practicing" right along with us, does that mean that you'll dump that $250,000 base salary and $100,000 worth of benefits, and jump on the good old salary schedule?

Didn't think so.

Once again I'll state my position that unions have an important place in the labor/management realm of teaching, but if you don't think that teacher's unions are part of the problem in educating children, you are fooling yourself.  From the hypocritical talk of the NEA president, to engaging in the willful destruction of the education system in Ukiah by our local union, the situation is becoming more and more disturbing by the day. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pause, now Health Care

 

All of my classes stopped the usual instruction today and talked Health Care bills.  Yes, it was that important.  Jesus, after all the crap spewing from the House floor yesterday, from democratic utopias to neo-fascist states, I figured the kids could get a little real news.  Here’s how it went in all classes.

1.  Students walk in and take a quiz.  Yes, I assigned work during Spring Break, and for the most part students came through.  My APUSH (AP U.S. History) students had a huge quiz, and I offered them a “freebie” when they were done taking the quiz, meaning they chose one question in which they were unsure of the answer.  If wrong, it counted as correct.  I’m a softy.  Sue me.  Everyone else got the whole shebang.

2.  We briefly discuss two government funded health care programs; Medicare and Medicaid. 

3.  I show the CBS Sunday Morning clip “Bill of Health”.  The ten minute clip does a nice job not only introducing the debate, but also gives a brief history of health care legislation.

4.  I show a C-SPAN clip of the Representative of the First District of the State of California, Mike Thompson (our Congressman) speaking during General Debate of the health care bill (HR 3590).  It is less than one minute.

5.  I then show the question call and the vote on the bill.  The Government/Economics Seniors love it because it ends up being just like our Mock Congress.  A representative calls the question, the members yell “Aaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyeeeeeee!”, and “Nnnnnnooooooooooo!”, and then the Minority Leader calls for a “roll call vote”.  We don’t watch the whole 15 minute roll call thanks to the magic of Tivo.  Instead we watch the vote number 216 cross the screen, and then finish with the official tally announced.  Total time, about five or so minutes.

6.  We then break down the bill.  I have the main highlights on the board and we go through them one at a time.  Students ask questions, look at repercussions, Economics students lament on not buying Health Insurance stock on Friday, and the discussion lasts for a good 20 or so minutes. 

No, it will not assist in the AP tests (maybe U.S.), or the STAR tests, and I lost a day of instruction that I can’t get back.

But the entire class was interested, involved, and today good knowledge was shared.    

Sunday, March 21, 2010

View of Health Care from a middle class American from NorCal

So, my wife and I make under $100,000 as a married couple this year.  We live in an area that has a pretty high cost of living (standard cost of a 3 bedroom/2 bath house is over $300 now) in beautiful Northern California.  My wife and I are both covered by health insurance through our district.  I pay $75 a month out of pocket with $1,000 deductable, and coverage sucks unless you have a catastrophic event in which case the coverage has been called “very good” by those that have used it.  My wife is a member of Blue Shield.  You know, the one that is jacking up premiums on their members.  I heard a rumor that her district (along with furlough days and a pay cut) wants the teachers to bear the entire cost of the increase.

So, I have some questions about the legislation that was just passed.

1.  Does anyone really think the legislation will stand as is?  The vast majority of it doesn’t take place until 2014.  It is more than likely that Congress will no longer be under the control of the Democrats.  While it is highly unlikely, a new president could be in the White House in 2012.  The legislation will be under judicial review immediately and will be adjusted for that as well. 

2.  So pre-existing conditions can’t be a part of accepting a person on to a plan.  Since people are much more unhealthy now than in the past, what happens to people that are fine and healthy?  Do they pay for the private insurer to accept someone who is high risk?

3.  Children are allowed to be on their parents plan until they are 26 years old.  Does this mean that the federal government now thinks that it should take a child eight years to complete college, or obtain necessary skills, and get a job?  Doesn’t this actually create a disincentive for people to leave home and start becoming productive members of the economy? 

4.  By 2018, “Cadillac Plans” will be taxed extra to help fund the program.  If I was not married, my dogshit plan would be considered a “Cadillac Plan”.  As a couple, we don’t currently fall under that bracket, but surely will in 2018.  If the purpose of the legislation was to help the majority of Americans, and middle-class Americans are going to be doubly taxed (remember #2, the company is going to raise rates), how does this provide the necessary help in reducing the costs of health insurance.  For the 80+% that already has insurance, costs will actually rise.

5.  The United States has a population of 300 million.  About 46 million do not have health insurance.  Out of that 46 million, over 9 million are non-citizens of the United States.  That’s 20%.  Since the bill does not allow for illegals to acquire insurance (Joe Wilson was wrong), but the state is still mandated to treat them if they show up to an emergency room, how does that help reduce the cost of health care?

6.  And in a follow up to question #5, if Congress passes amnesty for the illegal immigrants already in the United States, wouldn’t that then guarantee them health care under this resolution?  Wouldn’t that put an undue burden on states like California, who are already dealing with millions of illegal immigrants that the federal government refuses to manage?  (Immigration is a Federal Government responsibility.  Check your U.S. Constitution.  It is another unfunded government issue.)

These aren’t partisan questions.  I don’t give a damn about reconciliation, amendments for Nebraska, Louisiana, or bottles of Gatorade.  I know how laws are made, and I know a thing or two about politics, and how both parties engage in shallow acts of hyperbole.  I want to know how this actually helps the country go in the right direction.  Fine, I agree that Americans should not go without health insurance.  But does this piece of legislation do anything that will help the nation as a whole? 

This legislation sucks, and while I can’t stand the Minority Leader, John Boehner, he had a point about the Democrats playing party politics while not listening to the American people.  No wellness reform, no hospital incentives, no health insurance fraud provisions, no tort reform policies, no regulations on private insurance company premiums, no real help.  What the legislation did is put a pool of 46 million Americans into the hands of the private insurance companies while getting other Americans to pay for it. 

So, why does it work?              

Typical Senior quote

So I'm on Facebook right now talking to students about the Health Care bill when this popped up from a Senior in my News Feed:
"You'd think that by now teachers would realize that giving seniors homework in the last quarter is pretty pointless and just a bad idea in general....most of us already know what schools we're going to, and we no longer need to try to get the best grade possible. All you have to do is pass."
Funny thing is that a parent came up to me two weeks ago, with their kid right next to them, and said the exact same thing.

So, are the Facebook post and the parent correct?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Want a job? Try a state take-over district.

The amount of things that are disturbing about this are numerous. 

For those that don’t know, Oakland Unified School district is a shining example of a state takeover resulting in complete failure.  In 2003, the state took over the poorly run district and since then has shown everyone in California that they can’t run it right either.  Err, President Obama?  Knock, knock.  State-takeover does what for low-performing schools?   

Well, the teachers union in Oakland Unified, fed up with contractual negotiations, decided that April 22 is going to be a strike day.  Knowing the history of Oakland Unified, that strike could become much longer.  The Oakland Unified School district has hit the deck running with preparations for the potential strike.  How?  Craigslist of course. 

Emergency Temporary Teachers (Locations: TBA) (Oakland Unified School District)


Date: 2010-03-17, 2:57PM PDT
 

The Oakland Unified School District serves approximately 40,000 students in 120 schools and child development centers.
In the event of a Work Stoppage, substitute teachers will be needed to teach our students.

Rate of Pay: $300 per day

Requirements:
1. Bachelor’s degree (Original diploma or official transcripts)*
2. Valid Drivers License, Identification Card, Permanent Residency Card or US Passport*
3. Valid Social Security Card*
4. Valid California Teaching Credential or 30-Day Substitute Teacher Permit (Or we will facilitate)*
5. Proof of passing CBEST (or we will facilitate a Waiver)*
6. Proof of TB clearance within the past 60 days*
7. Pass criminal background check (Fingerprinting costs covered by our district)
8. Completed hard-copy of application of employment (Available at Orientation)

  Holy God.  Districts are using Craigslist to find subs for a strike???  They can’t be serious.  Am I wrong or are there a dozen colleges in the Bay Area that probably have access to thousands of young teachers who are interested in getting their feet wet?  And check out numbers four and five, which basically say that the district is willing to waive the some pretty important requirements to stick total strangers in their rooms with kids.  Oh, and FYI, $300 a day is more than I make right now.  In fact, $300 a day is probably over twice the normal sub pay rate.  Someone is going to make a nice day’s pay for working in Oakland.

Not that I’d want to work in Oakland right now.  I haven’t a clue why negotiations are where they are, but something about this district scares the hell out of me.  Maybe it’s the state takeover mentality.  Maybe it’s the history of the district making Ebonics a legitimate language.  Or maybe it’s just the absolute absurdity that a district would choose to reduce a classroom teaching position to a Craigslist post.

Word.

Work?! On a break???

One bad thing about having students “friended” on Facebook is the bevy of complaints that I start to field about how much I’m a heathen for assigning homework during Spring Break.  The homework isn’t “busy work”, meaning worksheets or useless paperwork, it’s actually reading.  My Economics class has to read one “section” on Demand, about four pages in the textbook.  My AP U.S. History class has to read a chapter, about 28 pages.  And my A.P. Comp Gov class also has to read a chapter, again about 28 pages.  In the end it is the necessity to know the information that is important, and that information is quizzed upon return.

Unfair?  Look, I have two “college prep” level classes and three Advanced Placement classes, which are classes that are supposed to emulate a four-year college course.  I don’t assign work during Christmas Break, but I don’t see the problem with saying “hey, the work still needs to get done” for Thanksgiving and Spring Break, just like most colleges. 

Is it effective?  Well, in most cases it isn’t.  Students are becoming less and less inclined to read anything given to them, and even if they read many students are so distracted by a multitude of options that they can’t apply anything.  My wife and I discussed last night that many kids are expecting all instruction to be done in class only, with nothing but their own time outside of the room.  That’s fine and dandy except that we need to remove the “college prep” or Advanced Placement emphasis from things if we are deciding to go that direction.  It’s not too good when an AP student announced “You realize that nobody is going to read during vacation right”?  My response is always the same. 

“Ok”.

And we move on.   

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Excuses

Please excuse Student A because he/she had a problem with his/her phone and the alarm on it didn’t go off this morning.  He/she overslept.  Thanks.

I received that note fifteen minutes into class this week from a student who was late.  I have to admit, I smirked and the entire class saw it.  I smirked for a variety of reasons.

1.  This is a class of Seniors.  When I was a Senior in high school there was no way I would have a handwritten note for a specific teacher with an excuse.  First of all, you just don’t do that as a Senior.  Every Senior knows that notes go to the office, and passes go to the teacher.  It makes you look like a rookie.

2.  It’s a class of high level Seniors, which means that barring a serious emergency, I really don’t care why you end up tardy.  By your Senior year, and in a 4 year college level class, absences (again, barring something real serious) hurt the student more than they hurt me.  Most everything is in the form of test and quizzes, so you missing the work is your deal.  It’s only a rare event that I get something like “overslept” that gives me a moment to reflect on how immature “adults” can be.  So in that brief moment I was thinking about the reaction I would have witnessed from my credential advisor at Chico State if I walked into his class late with a note saying, “My phone didn’t go off and I overslept”.  He would have written a note back saying “GTFO”.

3.  Pick’em that the note was forged anyway.  At 18 years old, I wouldn’t have gone to my father for an excuse note at gun point.   

I talked to people in the attendance office this afternoon about my note and they said it was nothing compared to what parents excuse for their kids.  Parents have excused tardies because of coffee breaks, donut runs, students staying up too late, hang-overs, you name it.

Me?  I don’t usually let it bother me.  Students that are chronically late get an attendance contract with the office.  Students that cut five times get an “F”.  In most classes, especially Advanced Placement, the attendance takes care of itself.  Students can’t afford to miss class and do well. Miss one day a week and the possibility of you passing is minimal in college prep, almost impossible in AP.  Since I teach Seniors, this becomes more serious because I spend the first semester warning them, and then I’m quiet for the rest of the year.  Nothing much happens until the third quarter report card (which is about now) when a Senior sees “F” and the possibility of not graduating.  This year I have AP kids that will see “F”, and then the freak out is really going to kick in.  Yeah, AP and skipping out once or twice a week doesn’t work well. 

And don’t even bother with the note. 

Now Newsweek jumps on the bandwagon

image

Note to Evan Thomas of Newsweek, you are years behind the times in terms of blaming teachers for the ills of education in America.

In a move that pretty much surprises no one, Newsweek added it’s two cents in an article entitled “Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers”.  Wow, very catching.  I would summarize the article for you, but unless you have been under a rock for a decade, you already know the drill.

-Teachers have no accountability.

-Teachers are the most important piece to the puzzle.

-Top college students don’t become teachers.

-Look at how wonderful the KIPP schools are.

-Unions get in the way.

-Teach for America was created by a God among men.

-Michelle Rhee should bear my children.

Yada, yada, yada.

I’ve said many times that I agree that we should fire bad teachers, but that’s not the main problem with Education.  The main problem, the same problem that Newsweek just exacerbated, is that there is a false prioritization of Education.  When you want to actually address the entire issue, and not a small percentage of teachers that suck, then we’ll get somewhere. 

By the way, here is a comment from the page containing the article;

In no other profession are such low standards accepted. In no other country is such mediocrity accepted. When a teacher can have 50% of their class not even graduate and yet still teach, as in Rhode Island, then you don't need to be teaching. If a doctor kills 50% of his patients….guess what happens? THEY GET FIRED!

I’d like to point out to the commentator that the doctor is not responsible for the idiocy of his patients.  Question.  If the doctor gives a patient with heart disease a workout routine, dietary advice, prescription drugs, and tells the patient to stop smoking, and the patient does none of those things and dies, will the doctor be fired?  Of course not.  I would argue that teaching is one of the few professions were teachers are held responsible for things that are completely out of their control on a regular basis.  Only our patients often have special needs, can’t speak English, and are encouraged by society not to take the prescription drugs because their heart isn’t that important in the mind of Mom and Dad. 

For instance, I was told that our district might not pass our API/AYP requirements this year because not enough students took the California High School Exit Exam, with excused absences from their parents.  A parent can also sign their children out of taking the STAR tests, which again negatively impacts our standings, thus our funding, and other services we can provide.  Basically the patient can blame the doctor for being inadequate because he didn’t act on the healthy routine in the first place. 

But at least he had a note from Mom excusing him, so that makes it ok.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Rhode Island makes Obama capitulate to popular opinion

Why didn’t I think of this?

Last week the school board for Central Fall’s High School in Rhode Island said that enough was enough, and then off’d the entire staff of 93, which included 74 classroom teachers, plus reading specialists, guidance counselors, physical education teachers, the school psychologist, the principal and three assistant principals.  With only 7% of Juniors proficient in Math, and only half of the population graduating, the Board thought that starting over was the only recourse for a school with such low achievement.

Huh.

Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan, who is now becoming a person that I loathe, applauded the move, saying the committee members were “showing courage and doing the right thing for kids.”  Then our President endorsed the measure as well.  

So, maybe I’m the idiot.  Maybe I’m the one not understanding the benefit of completely blasting out a group of teachers, some of which are probably fantastic.  Socio-economic conditions, number of English Language Learners, unsupportive parents, are you telling me that none of these things have an impact on student achievement?  Your telling me that because students refuse to do homework, stay up until 3 a.m. texting, and don’t value education that somehow every teacher was to blame.

Welcome to the current climate regarding teachers.  It was bad enough being told today that there is no more paper for printing once it is gone, printer cartridges once they run out, or bulbs for the projector (so much for bringing Ukiah into the next century), then I come home and watch the president slice and dice a moronic decision to destroy a school staff.  I get the idea of making a school more efficient, but totally nuking a school has shown to never work and ends up being a cheap political way to score points with parents that are often angry because teachers are tired of babysitting. 

I’m still waiting for someone to figure out that the best thing to do is hire a great principal and then let him stay on campus and do his damn job.  That way he can evaluate good teachers and prepare the bad ones to change or get the hell out.  This would have been a hell of a lot easier than firing everyone. 

Oh, and for those that are wondering, “Are we next"?  Eventually, everyone is going to be in Program Improvement and yes, the political pressure will be on teachers to be held responsible.  Remember, because of No Child Left Behind, student progress must continuously grow until it reaches 100% (which is supposed to happen in about 5 years).  That is completely unrealistic and will eventually put everyone in Program Improvement, and then teachers won’t have to worry about teaching anymore because the State will end up doing it for them. 

Of course, we need to work on getting the school out of Program Improvement with less resources as well, since the State of California has chosen to continue to cut education.  And since budgets kill vocational ed and electives, less students come to school and Average Daily Attendance goes down, which creates more budget issues and lower test scores.  Get the point?

So, uh, Mr. President?  When are you REALLY going to start to get serious about Education?