Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Arne Duncan's position on education and poverty

Arne Duncan's position on education and poverty –
Stephen Krashen and Susan Ohanian

"The way you end cycles of poverty is through educational opportunity …" (Arne Duncan, in "A conversation with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan," in the NCTE Council Chronicle, 2011).
The US Department of Education says that with better teaching, we will have more learning (higher test scores, according to the feds), and this will lead to major improvements in the economy. This is a core concept that drives US Department of Education policy.  It also suggests that our economic problems are because of low-quality education.
The US DOE philosophy is identical to Bill Gates' view: "There's a lot of uncertainty today about our nation's economy, but there is no uncertainty that a high-quality education is key to economic prosperity for all of our people--and for us as a nation" (Gates, 2011).
But there is good evidence supporting the view that the relationship is the other way around, evidence that agrees with Martin Luther King's position: "We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.”            (Martin Luther King, 1967, Final Words of Advice).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NCLB Waivers

RE: The new NCLB Waivers

It is important to know that the basic rules of school program improvement, the  take over, the use of yearly progress reports, the use of tests as the measure of reform, the 5 options for reform, the use of subgroups as a a measure ( ie. English Language Learners),  the claim to have only  well qualified teachers, etc.  I believe are all part of California state law.  The use of waivers to suspend aspects of NCLB does not change the California laws.  Until and unless California laws are re-written not much will change in the classroom. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

The problem with Obama’s plan to issue NCLB waivers - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post

The problem with Obama’s plan to issue NCLB waivers - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post

Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Waivers for NCLB Requirements

WASHINGTON—No Child Left Behind needs to be fixed. Reauthorization, which is Congress' responsibility, is the appropriate avenue to do so. We applaud Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) for their efforts to move that process forward, and we share their frustration that reauthorization is long overdue. In the absence of congressional reauthorization, we understand why the Obama administration is taking this action; we are keenly aware of the calls from parents, teachers and administrators for change—sooner rather than later. Waivers are an imperfect answer to the stalemate in Congress and, at best, can provide only a temporary salve.
Some of what the administration proposes is promising, some is cause for concern, and there are missed opportunities that could have enhanced both teaching and learning.
We are pleased that the administration's proposal includes more options prospectively for improving low-performing schools, recognizing that many of the remedies prescribed in NCLB were not flexible enough. The proposal also acknowledges the importance of adopting higher college- and career-ready standards, which could include the Common Core State Standards, to prepare kids for a 21st-century knowledge economy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Creating jobs for Teachers and opportunity for students

President Calls for Billions to Save Educator Jobs and Modernize Schools

President Obama's American Jobs Act calls for $60 billion to save teacher jobs and modernize the nation's schools as part of his $447 billion plan to boost the lagging economy and reduce the stagnant unemployment rate. But despite the president's assertion that every component of his plan has a history of bipartisan support and won't add to the deficit, such measures face an uphill battle in a divided Congress where many Republicans are skeptical that more spending will improve the economy and create jobs.
The American Jobs Act includes $30 billion to prevent up to 280,000 teacher layoffs by supporting state and local efforts to retain, rehire, and hire early childhood, elementary, and secondary educators. The funds can be used for not only teachers, but also guidance counselors, classroom assistants, afterschool personnel, tutors, and literacy and math coaches. The hope is that in addition to saving educator jobs, such efforts will address the ballooning class sizes, shortened school days, and reduction of afterschool activities that many districts are facing this school year as a result of state budget shortfalls.
The plan proposes an additional $30 billion to modernize at least 35,000 public schools?$25 billion for K-12 schools and $5 billion for community colleges. The money can't be spent on new school construction, but it can be used on a range of emergency repair and renovation projects, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, and modernization efforts to build new science and computer labs and upgrade school technology. Local districts would also be able to use the funds to help schools become centers of the community?from improving outdoor learning and play areas to upgrading shared spaces for adult vocational and job development centers.
 From: ASCD.  Education advocates

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Grading the Education Reformers | Economic Policy Institute

Grading the Education Reformers | Economic Policy Institute

How They Cheat

Paul Karrer

What does any society do when something is fundamentally wrong?
Answer - Obstruct, minimize, fudge, deny, resist, revolt, and cheat.
Why do educators cheat? Because of the results of high stakes testing. Testing now determines teachers’ fate. Merit pay is based on test results. Job security and job placement are based on test results. However, teachers don’t take the test - kids do.  No consideration is given to the soup of other variables  impacting a child’s test results. Why are wealthy cities’ scores high and poor areas low? Because it is all about poverty and wealth. Unfortunately some educators feel their backs are so against the wall, the only recourse they have is to cheat.
   Here are some ways districts and educators manipulate (cheat) standardized testing.

Institutionalized Cheating- (Mostly utilized in wealthier school districts with marginable but growing minority enrollments)
    1. The 15% rule -  If a school has a subgroup population (special education students, for example), comprising 15% or less, their scores are NOT counted. Imagine that you are an administra­tor at a school with X number of Special Education students. A few more kids in this group will make their low scores count by putting them over the 15% CAP. It is in the schools’ interest to make sure the subgroup never reaches 15% because then the scores count. Teachers want to do the to do the right thing and have Timmy tested, but if he qualifies, that would mean that subgroup's scores would count against your school, and likely cause you to miss scores that are required. So Timmy does NOT get tested, or the child is told there is no more room in the school, or he is encouraged to attend another school in the district. Thus the 15% trigger is not met.
   Ethnicity Switcheroo
 Schools fudge kids’ ethnicity - if a child is a low performer and of mixed race, he is put in a group below the 15% population trigger. His score does not count now. If he is a high performer he is put in a high performance group like Northern Asian or white (statistically and historically these are high performing groups) – Now his score will count and the school benefits overall.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Thank You Teachers- Labor Day

Thank you. To all of you who work, who have worked, or who look every day for work, thank you. Our country, and the dream generations have built their lives and their hopes for their children upon, exist because of your labor and the labor of your parents and their parents before them.
Over time, Labor Day has become part of an extended weekend, a well-deserved respite from the daily grind, a chance to spend time with family and friends and to mark the end of another summer. For educators it often signals the start of another school year, and for all of us in the labor movement, it’s an opportunity to reflect on and honor the work we have done collectively to create opportunity, security and fulfillment. 

But this Labor Day falls under the shadow of deep and broad joblessness, the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression, insecurity about the future and, sadly, attacks upon the very workers whose labor we honor on this day. 

The economic crisis was not caused by these people, who every day work hard and play by the rules. The tragic irony is that those who did cause it—the people who presided over the unchecked greed on Wall Street and the recklessness in the housing market—have recovered, while ordinary workers and their families are struggling to survive.
 Adding insult to injury, as many of you have witnessed in the last eight months, ideologues have made an art of giving short shrift to the workers who protect us; teach our children; care for our sick; and work the day shift, the night shift or the all-around-the-clock shift when—as happened last weekend—Mother Nature threatens. To these ideologues, teachers, police officers, firefighters, janitors and other public employees are convenient fall guys for their own greed, selfishness and irresponsibility. 

We’ve heard plenty about America’s budget deficit, but not nearly enough about our jobs deficit and how our leaders plan to put our people back to work. If allowed to continue, our deficit of jobs will become a deficit of hope. Americans are determined to get back to work, and we can’t allow a dysfunctional political system to threaten the American dream. At its core, America’s trajectory—both as an economic powerhouse and as a great democracy—has been driven by our investment in human capital, most notably through education.

The AFT occupies a unique position at the nexus between public education as the equalizer of individual opportunity, and the labor movement as the leading advocate for economic dignity. We know that a strong public education system is central to achieving individual goals and restoring our nation’s economic strength.

Good jobs this century and beyond require an unprecedented level of education and training. The industrial model of education marked by rote memorization will no longer suffice.