Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Secretary Duncan and Project RESPECT

Billed as a new initiative to rebuild the teaching profession and elevate teacher voice, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s new RESPECT Project (which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching) seeks to involve teachers and principals in a national conversation about teaching. The work builds on the more than 100 roundtable discussions that the Department of Education’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows have had with fellow teachers across the country and will continue to have throughout the year.
During a teacher town hall to launch the RESPECT Project, Duncan outlined his goals for revamping the teaching profession, which include
                Improving teacher preparation programs;
                Dramatically increasing teacher salaries and tying pay to job performance, skills, and demonstrated leadership ability;
                Establishing career ladders that allow for advancement and leadership opportunities without requiring teachers to completely leave the classroom;
                Improving professional development and providing teachers more time for meaningful collaboration;
                Providing teachers with greater classroom autonomy balanced with more accountability; and
                Implementing evaluation systems based on multiple measures, rather than just test scores.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Michelle Rhee tells her tale

Courtesy of Monty Neill at Fair Test.  Long, but worth reading, especially the suggestions at the end on how to more successfully reframe the debate:
Rhee's Framing of the Debate on Education
On the evening of February 7, Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of DC public schools and the public face of the opaquely funded StudentsFirst, addressed an audience of some four thousand people at the Paramount theater in Oakland. This lecture was one of a number of lectures purchased as a series, and did not imply any particular interest in Rhee or in education by the older and relatively affluent crowd attending, the sort of crowd one finds at similar series, whether theater, ballet, or classical music.

As I have never heard Rhee speak before, I cannot say that she tailored her talk to this particular audience, but given her consummate skills as a public speaker, I would be very surprised if she had not.

The lecture was divided in three parts. First, Rhee introduced herself
and described her leadership of the DC public schools; next, she outlined her fundamental principles about education; finally, she answered questions from the audience.

In the first part, Rhee established her persona: a mix of unprepossessing
but feisty "Korean lady," finding herself unaccountably charged with the
management of DC public schools and concerned only for the good of the
children. Her narrative of her three years as DC chancellor, a position
for which she had no qualifications or experience, framed her dictatorial
and disruptive tenure as the story of a plain speaking firebrand who
sliced through every piece of red tape and obstruction to transform
institutional corruption into a working school system. Rich in anecdote
and short on facts, the main point of the story was to set up Rhee as a
concerned citizen who was out of patience with a dysfunctional system and
whose arbitrary and devastating actions (performed under the aegis of
Mayoral control) were not a violation of the democratic rights of parents
and teachers and children, but the necessary and heroic actions of a
woman more concerned with the good of the children than with the interest
of other "adults" involved in the educational system. Someone listening
closely might have wondered why schools were failing quite so badly
since, in fact, they had been following the kill and drill NCLB model for
close to a generation. Listeners might have also wondered about her
assertions as to how much money is being lavished on these failing
schools. But facts are little things, and Rhee's aim to tell a "Mr Smith
Goes to Washington" story largely succeeded. In this story, her lack of
expertise and experience prove that she is not part of the education
insiders responsible for the education crisis.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Millionaires should pay their taxes

 by Duane Campbell
California needs additional revenue to fund schools and to invest in the future.  A tax plan known as  The Millionaires Tax has been   proposed by the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign to increase revenues to pay for vital services.   It was assigned the official title "Tax To Benefit Public Schools, Social Services, Public Safety, And Road Maintenance," on Friday, Feb.2,   by California  Attorney General Kamala Harris.
A report of the California Budget Project notes that  “measured as a share of family income, California’s lowest-income families pay the most in taxes. The bottom fifth of the state’s families, with an average income of $12,600, spent 11.1 percent of their income on state and local taxes.  In comparison, the wealthiest 1 percent, with an average income of $2.3 million, spent 7.8 percent of their income on state and local taxes.”
The Millionaires  Tax  plan, of  the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign would raise taxes by three percentage points on income above $1 million and five percentage points on income over  $2 million.    Analysts say the proposal would generate $4 billion to $6 billion annually.  Signature gathering for the plan will begin within weeks.
The plan competes  with Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, which would raise income taxes on earners starting at $250,000 for single filers, as well as increase the statewide sales tax by a half-cent.