Monday, March 28, 2011

The Myth of the Korean Super Teacher

Myth of the Korean Super Teacher and the 3 Bird Tragedy

   Recently, teachers at my elementary school were subjected to a poke in the eye with “data” confirming that we were among the lowest 5% of performing schools in California.  A presenter threw out the latest mantras. “It’s all about teachers. Teachers matter. In Korea, teachers are held in high esteem.”
    Whoa, stop right there reformer. Pull out a factoid (It’s all about teachers) with: no inkling of the realities accompanying it. Then “reform incorporated” pushes to transfer that one little factoid without the rest of the support pyramid beneath the factoid.  I lived in Korea, taught in Korea, my wife is Korean and although it is wretched I can speak some Korean.
      Korea’s phenomenal educational performance has little to do with teachers. It is entirely about parents. Parents who were weaned on a Confucian ethic which echoed for centuries - education is the route to success and status. Korean parents sacrifice all for their kids. One of the most disturbing and tragic outcomes is the three bird syndrome. Many educationally inspired families are separated, moms live overseas with their kids from New Zealand to Canada, anywhere the natives speak English. The dad’s reside in Korea or other nations and they work to pay the overseas bills.  If they make lots of money they can fly often and see their kids and wife regularly (eagle dads), some less monied fathers only visit once a year like a migratory bird (goose dads), saddest of all are the fathers who toil in dire solitary poverty, and reside in horrible conditions. They are separated by miles and years. These wingless dads rarely see their families. (Penguin dads) Their willingness to sacrifice their families for educational opportunity is commendable, yet sad and shocking. Teachers play no role in this.
      Educational intensity in Korea is off the scale – one-hundred days before the one and only national test date, moms and dads go to churches and temples and pray three or four times - a day and for each of those one hundred days. They are praying for high scores. Church calendars even come with these days pre-marked.
    Still think it’s teachers that make Korea perform so well? If a child misses the bus or gets up late on test day, police bring them to test areas in squad cars. Children in hospitals are brought via ambulances to test centers. To reduce noise during the exam, commercial vehicles are not allowed within 200 meters of the testing area. Planes are not allowed to take off or land during the listening section of tests.  Taxi companies hire extra fleets of cars to make sure kids arrive on time. Oh, and in major cities work is delayed for one hour to accommodate the test takers.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Teacher Unions Matter

By Tom Alves, SJTA Executive Director

Unions matter to this country. And teacher unions matter to public education. The panic that is piling up in Wisconsin and other Republican states over whether collective bargaining rights should exist is real.  This is a concerted effort by political lackeys of powerful corporate interests (it’s easy to follow the money on this) to step on the throat of unions by framing the false message that collective bargaining is the culprit of the current economic woes.  Corporate profiteers have created this diversion to take our eye off their own culpability for the 2008 crash and the subsequent greed of corporate leaders that profited from the federal bailout.  The latest shiny ball-like distraction is that public sector pensions are the major cause of the current economic woes.  This is manipulative messaging at its finest as it shifts one’s eye off the irresponsible behaviors of corporate leaders and drives a wedge between workers.
Practically speaking, white collar and public sector unionism is all that remains of a middle class movement that has fought to guarantee equity and fairness in the workplace for the past 100 years, that includes the forty-hour workweek, health care benefits, sick leave, safety requirements, and modest pensions.  Only 12.3 percent of today’s workforce belongs to a union as opposed to nearly 35 percent in the 1950’s.  This is not because workers don’t want unionized workplaces.  As Philip Dine writes in his recent book, State of the Unions, polling reveals that 53 percent of non-union employees would belong to a union if they could.  This loss is mostly due to manufacturing and production leaving the country — nearly three million jobs (mostly unionized) have been shipped overseas since 1998.
California will not escape this attack on collective bargaining rights.  Ultra conservative forces are already planning to place an initiative on the 2012 ballot that will gut the collective bargaining law.  Wealthy right-wingers and venture capitalists have targeted their deregulation attack on public education as they advocate for reforms that force school closures, more charters and takeovers by outside organizations, and overly simplistic and flawed assessment systems for accountability purposes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Bill Gates misinterprets education data

Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 03/11/2011

How Bill Gates misinterprets ed facts

This was written by Richard Rothstein, a research associate at theEconomic Policy Institute, a non-profit created in 1986 to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. This appeared on the institute's website.

By Richard Rothstein
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates authored an op-ed published in The Washington Post late last month, “How Teacher Development could Revolutionize our Schools,” proposing that American public schools should do a better job of evaluating the effectiveness of teachers, a goal with which none can disagree. But his specific prescriptions, and the urgency he attaches to them, are based on the misrepresentation of one fact, the misinterpretation of another and the demagogic presentation of a third. It is remarkable that someone associated with technology and progress should have such a careless disregard for accuracy when it comes to the education policy in which he is now so deeply involved.
Gates’ most important factual claim is that “over the past four decades, the per-student cost of running our K-12 schools has more than doubled, while our student achievement has remained virtually flat.” And, he adds, “spending has climbed, but our percentage of college graduates has dropped compared with other countries.” Let’s examine these factual claims:
Bill Gates says: "Our student achievement has remained virtually flat."
The only longitudinal measure of student achievement that is available to Bill Gates or anyone else is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP provides trends for 4th, 8th, and 12th graders, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and poverty, since about 1980 in basic skills in math and reading (called the “Long Term Trend NAEP”) and since about 1990 for 4th and 8th graders in slightly more sophisticated math and reading skills (called the “Main NAEP”).[*]
On these exams, American students have improved substantially, in some cases phenomenally. In general, the improvements have been greatest for African-American students, and among these, for the most disadvantaged. The improvements have been greatest for both black and white 4th and 8th graders in math. Improvements have been less great but still substantial for black 4th and 8th graders in reading and for black 12th graders in both math and reading. Improvements have been modest for whites in 12th grade math and at all three grade levels in reading.
The following table summarizes these results, for the earliest and most recent years for which disaggregated data were collected.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Save Our Schools

On this day, it behooves us to remember the words of Martin Niemoller. "First they came for the communists," he wrote, "and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me." I am a trade unionist, and Wednesday in Wisconsin, they came for me. They came for you. They came for every working person in America, and their intent could not be more clear.
William Rivers Pitt

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Texas cuts school budgets- Like California

Texas cuts drastically cuts public schools budgets. - Like California.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Support Teachers in Wisconsin

As NEA members, we all have a big stake in stopping Governor Scott Walker's attempt to slash the benefits and take away the labor rights of teachers here in Wisconsin. He's made it clear that he hopes to be in the vanguard of a national movement to undermine collective bargaining.

For my wife Heather and me, the stakes are as personal as they can get. We're both teachers here in Sun Prairie, and, if Walker's plan doesn't get blocked, we'll be looking at a $13,200 pay cut. I don’t have to tell you how scary and disheartening that is for a family with two young children.

But what galls me the most is that this attack comes specifically because we are teachers. Our out-of-control governor is going after K-12 teachers, higher education faculty and staff, nurses, and public service workers. We all have to band together – because if it succeeds in Wisconsin, Governor Walker's strategy will be repeated in state after state. Already, the governors of Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, Florida and New Jersey are going after teachers. That's why we need your immediate PAC support to keep the pressure on.
Help the NEA Fund fight to protect public education and defend our right to collective bargaining.
Heather and I are doing our part to take a stand against Governor Walker’s dangerous proposals. I've been working the phones, mobilizing colleagues in the Wisconsin Education Association Council to call and email their legislators, and to attend rallies at the statehouse.

The sad thing is, with a little decency and common sense, we could resolve this crisis. Everyone understands that we're in a financial crisis in our country. And we're all willing to do our part to help solve it. But instead of pulling people together to find a collective solution, Governor Walker has chosen to single out and vilify one group of people - teachers, nurses, and other middle class workers.

That's because his real agenda is not just to slash our benefits, but to permanently dismantle our right to collective bargaining. You and I can't let that happen – not in Wisconsin, not anywhere.
Donate now to help the NEA fight to defend our hard-earned right to collective bargaining in Wisconsin and beyond.