"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Are We Really Doing Enough to Hurt Public Education?

Have you thanked a soldier today? Here in the US we have no trouble supporting our troops. Bumper stickers...politicians...pundits of all stripes regularly go on and on about our military.
WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.
But in education it's different. When things go wrong it's the teachers' fault.
And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.
In The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari discuss how we treat our public schools and public school teachers.
At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible.

So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. For Erik Benner, an award-winning history teacher in Keller, Tex., money has been a constant struggle. He has two children, and for 15 years has been unable to support them on his salary. Every weekday, he goes directly from Trinity Springs Middle School to drive a forklift at Floor and D├ęcor. He works until 11 every night, then gets up and starts all over again. Does this look like “A Plan,” either on the state or federal level?
They suggest that we follow the lead of the countries in the world with the highest test results. Countries like Finland, Singapore...South Korea...
Turns out these countries have an entirely different approach to the profession. First, the governments in these countries recruit top graduates to the profession. (We don’t.) In Finland and Singapore they pay for training. (We don’t.) In terms of purchasing power, South Korea pays teachers on average 250 percent of what we do.

And most of all, they trust their teachers. They are rightly seen as the solution, not the problem, and when improvement is needed, the school receives support and development, not punishment. Accordingly, turnover in these countries is startlingly low: In South Korea, it’s 1 percent per year. In Finland, it’s 2 percent. In Singapore, 3 percent.
Read the whole article. We claim to want "research based reform" and "scientifically proven methods" but we are doing exactly the opposite of what's been shown to work.

If you want a plan for getting rid of public schools which serve ALL students and replacing them with private, religious and charter schools who can pick and choose their students...if you want to go back to the segregated schools of the 50s...if you want schools for the poor and separate schools for the rich...if you just give lip service to educating all children and are really interested in fueling wealthy "reformers" financial empires, then we're doing just fine.

What's our plan for education? Read what Schools Matter said about this, Our plan for teachers:
  • discourage teachers from getting more training in their fields,
  • discourage new teachers from professional preparation,
  • evaluate teachers based on test scores that reflect the gaps they cannot close,
  • provide pay bonuses based on test scores, thus discouraging teachers from working with the children who need the most help,
  • turn teaching into test score production management,
  • drain existing teacher resources, cut benefits, and drive down teacher pay by encouraging more corporate welfare charter schools,
  • ignore poverty and pretend that teachers can fix poor children with total compliance and brainwashing,
  • portray teachers as selfish mossbacks who resist change,
  • continue to encourage the resegregation of American schools.
EXTRA:
For Teacher Appreciation Week I'd like to share this article by a teacher in NYC. Are we doing everything we can to make teaching difficult and unpleasant? Are we doing everything we can to convince our best and brightest that they should do something other than teach the next generation? Maybe we should do more...

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