"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

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 Medley #6

Teachers' Work Hours, Teacher Pay, Charters, War on Teachers, Cheating, Class Size, Status Quo, Testing, Taking Parents out of Public Education.

Survey: Teachers work 53 hours per week on average
A new report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, called Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession, finally quantifies just how hard teachers work: 10 hours and 40 minutes a day on average. That’s a 53-hour work week!
You can read the report at http://www.scholastic.com/primarysources/download.asp


Are Teachers Overpaid?
Since I first wrote this piece, I’ve continued to read and respond and grade and plan and attend meetings and communicate. I’ve now reached 358.75 hours of off-contract time. Now nearly nine weeks of time donated to my students and to my school.

Corporate Foxes in the IN DOE Henhouse: The Chain School Gospel of Jeb Bush, Jon Hage and Walmart
The East Indianapolis Charter Academy and the South Indianapolis Charter Academy, Charter Schools USA claimed, would be “feeder schools” for students to eventually enter the three other Indiana public schools the Florida for-profit company will be handed $2 million yearly to “turnaround.” “Feeder schools” is an appropriate term, for what these schools do is “feed” taxpayer’s money to Charter Schools USA (CS USA) and whatever other for-profit companies it brings to Indiana.

The war on teachers: Why the public is watching it happen by Mark Naison
All over the nation, teachers are under attack. Politicians of both parties, in every state, have blamed teachers and their unions for the nation’s low standing on international tests and our nation’s inability to create the educated labor force our economy needs.

Mass firings of teachers in so-called failing schools have taken place in municipalities throughout the nation and some states have made a public ritual of humiliating teachers. In Los Angeles and New York, teacher ratings based on student standardized test scores — said by many to be inaccurate — have been published by the press. As a result, great teachers have been labeled as incompetent and some are leaving the profession. A new study showed that teachers’ job satisfaction has plummeted in recent years.

What the latest revelations on test cheating really mean
The increasing focus and reliance on standardized tests to evaluate schools and teachers is resulting in cheating. That’s probably inevitable. But it’s also probably minimal. The bigger problem is a more serious type of cheating – one that’s perfectly legal and apparently acceptable. Students are being cheated of a broader education that emphasizes a balance of creativity, extracurricular activities, foreign languages, higher math and science skills and other opportunities due to the over-emphasis on testing for basic math and reading. In this sense, a fixation on testing cheats not only our students but also their communities and the future employers who will depend on their creativity and can-do problem-solving. And our democracy is certainly cheated when our youth are unprepared for healthy civic engagement.

No Surprise Cheating Is Widespread
...I'd like to ask why we are shocked when cheating occurs. After all, reformers demand a business approach to education, and yet cheating scandals are uncovered with increasing frequency in Corporate America. If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

Ignoring a reform that works
Two thirds of teachers are experiencing increased class sizes at their schools due to budget cuts, according to a recent national MET life survey . The problem is particularly evident for those who teach in urban areas with large numbers of at-risk students. In schools from New York to Arizona, Texas to California, class sizes in many schools have swelled to thirty or more, denying teachers a real opportunity to teach and children a real chance to learn.

The same survey showed that these worsening conditions have caused a sharp drop in teacher morale, which has fallen to the lowest level in 20 years. As a result, a growing number of teachers say they intend to quit the profession in the next few years. Swelling class sizes and budget cuts have also led to a growing pessimism, with nearly half of teachers saying that it is unlikely that student achievement will have improved five years from now.

What’s especially discouraging is that while class sizes are rising sharply throughout the nation, helping to damage teacher morale and our children’s opportunity to learn, Democratic and Republican elected officials seem unconcerned. In fact, both Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s proposed education budget and the GOP House bill to revise ESEA would sharply cut back on the amount of federal funds districts are able to spend on class size reduction.

‘There is no joy in education these days’
The Speaker of the House says that the status quo will no longer be an option. I could not agree more.

But here is the $64 thousand question: What is the status quo?

Is it the fact that Alabama’s K-12 education budget has gone down every year since FY 2007-08 and will be about $2.6 BILLION less in the coming fiscal year than in 2007-08?

Is it the fact that you have to go all the way back to FY 1998-99 to find another education budget as small as the one the legislature will pass this year?

Is it the fact that No Child Left Behind, the law proposed by president George W. Bush immediately after he took office and then passed in 2001 by Congress with a 90 percent favorable vote, set us down an impossible path to the land of Lake Wobegon where every child will be “above average?”

In Texas, a revolt brews against standardized testing
First, the state education commissioner, Robert Scott, said the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be. He also called “the assessment and accountability regime” not only “a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex,” and he attacked the Common Core Standards Initiative as being motivated by business concerns.

Then he agreed to postpone by a year a requirement that the results of each end-of-course exam account for 15 percent of a student’s final grade in that course.

CT Gov proposes to take the public & parents out of public education
The Connecticut Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, is a co-founder and former board member of Achievement First chain of charter schools. If the Governor’s bill passes, Pryor will have the power to take over any struggling school in the state, eviscerating the power of the local school governance council, made up of parents and staff, as well as the district’s elected school board. This proposal reveals clearly how the corporate reformers have no interest in parent empowerment or choice, but are intent on eliminating any public input which gets in their way of their ultimate goal: privatization of our public schools.
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