Stop the Testing Insanity!
Reviewers were mostly favorable towards "Waiting For Superman." The web site Rotten Tomatoes aggregates reviews, and also collects feedback from ordinary folks who have seen the movies. "Waiting For Superman" got an overall rating of 89%, with an audience score that was 84% positive.Both movies are "reformer" propaganda focusing on the evils of teachers unions, the failure of public education and the need to fire "bad teachers." Waiting for Superman was a documentary which failed in this task, so the moneybags funding "education reform" decided a heart-pumping, good vs. evil, moms-beat-the-system, fictional movie might work better.
Flash forward two years, and witness the release this month of "Won't Back Down," another movie heavily financed and promoted by education "reformers," with a similar message that teacher unions are obstacles to school improvement. This time the reaction has been decidedly different. The Rotten Tomatoes site indicates a reviewer score of only 35% so far, in spite of efforts by staffers at Students First to boost the score.
Many reviewers are taking issue with the use of an emotionally loaded story to push a particular political agenda, one which demonizes teacher unions and promotes charter* schools. But the movie is provoking some deeper discussions as well. Many reviewers are pointing out the source of funding for the film, and the strong political agenda that comes with it.Cody is not 100% correct when he defines public education as being a "democratically controlled, community-based" system. That's partly true, of course, but in some places, New York City and Chicago, for example, public education is controlled by the mayor who appoints the school board. I suppose that mayors, being elected (at least for the time being) officials, could be described as "democratically controlled," but school boards in such places are controlled by cronyism and political contributions. His point however, is well taken. Public education is not a government monopoly any more than public libraries are...or police departments...or fire departments. Such public institutions are services provided by the government under public control. There might be some extreme anti-government-types who would like to see all public services moved to private, corporate hands, but for most people, the thought of "charter" police and fire departments is out of the question.
The Chamber of Commerce is seeking to gain access to the $500 billion spent on education each year for profit-making corporations. They characterize our system of democratically controlled, community-based public education as some sort of "government monopoly," in order to undermine support for public schools and build support for free-market alternatives.
[The film's production company], Walden Media, is linked at the highest levels to the real-world adult alliance of corporate and far-right ideological interest groups that constitutes the so-called education reform movement, more accurately described as the education privatization movement.It is also
an educational content company with a commercial interest in expanding private-sector access to American K-12 education, or what Rupert Murdoch, Walden’s distribution partner on “Won’t Back Down,” lip-lickingly calls “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”In other words, Won't Back Down is a feature film length advertisement for the corporate takeover of public education. It's an infomercial, if you will, using highly paid actors and featuring "facts" adjusted by the corporate interests for public consumption. There's nothing wrong with infomercials, of course, but TV networks generally require a disclaimer, such as, "the following program is a paid advertisement." It would have been nice if Walden Media provided the same for its "infomercials" Waiting for Superman and Won't Back Down.
I don’t write to argue that improvement in the education of American minority students isn’t necessary. The reformers are right at the beginning of the conversation—there’s an emergency in our urban schools. But they are consistently wrong about their monolithic, ideology-driven cause, and about how to fix it. They are also wrong to pretend that there isn’t a whole family of non-school emergencies in our urban areas, and to play-act that schools should somehow be immune from the general devastation around them. If an earthquake hits, should the school building’s pictures not move? If a wave of poverty, drugs, and obliterated families inundates a neighborhood, should the school float above the fray?
The average primary-school teacher in the United States earns about 67 percent of the salary of a average college-educated worker in the United States. The comparable figure is 82 percent across the overall O.E.C.D. For teachers in lower secondary school (roughly the years Americans would call middle school), the ratio in the United States is 69 percent, compared to 85 percent across the O.E.C.D. The average upper secondary teacher earns 72 percent of the salary for the average college-educated worker in the United States, compared to 90 percent for the overall O.E.C.D.
American teachers, by the way, spend a lot more time teaching than do their counterparts in most other developed countries
...Given the opportunity costs of becoming a teacher instead of using your college degree to enter another, more remunerative field, are the psychic rewards of teaching great enough to convince America’s best and brightest to become educators?
...the movie is unbelievable crap and the whole project was financed by conservative Christian billionaire Phil Anschutz, also the moneybags behind the documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” which handled a similar agenda in subtler fashion.
...Most people still understand, I believe, that teachers work extremely hard for little pay and low social status in a thankless, no-win situation. But this is one of those areas where conservatives have been extremely successful in dividing the working class, which is precisely the agenda in “Won’t Back Down.”
Well-funded advocates of privatizing the nation's education system are employing a new strategy this fall to enlist support for the cause. The emotionally engaging Hollywood film "Won't Back Down" -- set for release September 28 -- portrays so-called "Parent Trigger" laws as an effective mechanism for transforming underperforming public schools. But the film's distortion of the facts prompts a closer examination of its funders and backers and a closer look at those promoting Parent Trigger as a cure for what ails the American education system.
Accountability measures for schools — including state takeover for those that consistently fail — have worked so well that lawmakers should consider extending them to school districts, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said Tuesday.
The state of education in Indiana is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to assuring that quality teachers are in every classroom. Dr. Bennett is asking the State Board of Education to lower standards for teachers. Under his new proposal, teachers will no longer be required to have a degree in education to teach, but instead would be given licenses if they can simply pass a test by the Pearson Company. The profession of teaching is continually refining and expanding the ways in which teachers can better reach students with rigorous content. This is not the time to take a step back. This is the time to make sure teachers have the proper educational background, internships, and student teaching experiences that will make them highly qualified in the classroom.
The Democratic Party understands the importance of turning around struggling public schools. We will continue to strengthen all our schools and work to expand public school options for low-income youth, including magnet schools, charter schools, teacher-led schools, and career academies.
...includes raising standards for the programs that prepare our teachers, recognizing and rewarding good teaching...We also believe in carefully crafted evaluation systems that give struggling teachers a chance to succeedDuring the Obama administration "turning around struggling public schools" has meant firing staffs, and/or selling off public educational institutions to private companies and expanding charter schools. "Carefully crafted evaluation systems" means evaluating teachers based on test scores. Neither of those "reforms" has a research base indicating success. Charters perform no better, on average, than public schools and VAM evaluation processes have been found to be invalid.
School choice – whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits – is important for all children...Again, like the Democrats, we see turn-arounds leading to charters, and student test scores being used to evaluate teachers (merit pay). The Republicans add vouchers, and specifically denounce teachers unions.
...We support legislation that will correct the current law provision which defines a “Highly Qualified Teacher” merely by his or her credentials, not results in the classroom. We urge school districts to make use of teaching talent in business, STEM fields, and in the military, especially among our returning veterans. Rigid tenure systems based on the “last in, first out” policy should be replaced with a merit-based approach...
We will all swallow our cup of corporate poison. We can take it from nurse Romney, who will tell us not to whine and play the victim, or we can take it from nurse Obama, who will assure us that this hurts him even more than it hurts us, but one way or another the corporate hemlock will be shoved down our throats. The choice before us is how it will be administered. Corporate power, no matter who is running the ward after January 2013, is poised to carry out U.S. history’s most savage assault against the poor and the working class, not to mention the Earth’s ecosystem. And no one in power, no matter what the bedside manner, has any intention or ability to stop it.NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel is currently traveling the campaign trail with Arne Duncan, the Obama's "reformer" Secretary of Education. Duncan's Race to the Top is nothing more than a plan to charterize public schools and de-professionalize public school teachers.
allocate more resources for public schools — to improve technology, to expand professional-development opportunities for teachers, to buy classroom supplies, up-to-date textbooks and all the other materials that come with a good education. Perhaps one of the best ways to improve public education would be to loosen the strictures that tie student and school evaluations to test preparation and instead to allow teachers to instruct students in the sort of project-based units supported by educational research and the sort of critical-thinking skills that cannot be measured by filling in bubbles — the sort of academic freedom that is praised in charter schools but restricted in traditional public schools.We can give our children the kind of schools they deserve.
Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'Asimov's position on this was obvious. Just because a free society allows people to have false ideas doesn't mean that we should, as a society, accept those false ideas as valid.
The [New York] Times can say that using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers is a sensible policy and Obama can say it and Education Secretary Arne Duncan can say it and Emanuel can say it and so can Bill Gates (who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop it) and governors and mayor[s] from both parties, and heck, anybody can go ahead and shout it out as loud as they can.No amount of support for VAM based teacher evaluations changes the fact that researchers have found the method to be unreliable.
It doesn’t make it true.
Assessments designed to evaluate student learning are not necessarily valid for measuring teacher effectiveness or student learning growth. Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person: you might be able to develop a formula that links height and weight, but there will be plenty of error in your calculations.A similar objection was written by researchers in Georgia. The ￼￼Georgia Researchers, Educators and Advocates for Teacher Evaluation Reform said
No evidence exists that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement...Testing companies themselves advise against the use of their instruments to evaluate educators...Assessments designed to evaluate student learning are not necessarily valid for measuring teacher effectiveness or student learning growth...These researchers are joined by the National Research Council. Strauss notes in her article,
The National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academies, which include the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, issued a major report last year on this issue that said:In other words, using students' standardized test scores to evaluate a teachers effectiveness in the classroom is bad science. The real research shows that those methods are incorrect usages of standardized tests and they are unfair to students and teachers, and anyone else involved, including parents, communities and local governments. Just because you want something to work a certain way doesn't mean it does. Good science suggests that we not use these methods for teacher evaluation until they have been shown to be reliable and valid.
The standardized test scores that have been trumpeted to show improvement in the schools provide limited information about the causes of improvements or variability in student performance.This would be true, presumably, for any school system that use standardized tests as a measure of achievement.
CTU's House of Delegates voted to "suspend" the strike and ask teachers to return to class tomorrow.
“Everybody is going back to school,” said Jay Rehak, a delegate from Whitney Young High School. Delegate Mike Bochner said “an overwhelming majority” of delegates voted to suspend the strike. “I’m really excited, I’m really relieved,” said Bochner, a teacher at Cesar Chavez elementary.
A huge THANK YOU is due to the teachers of Chicago, who are going back to work tomorrow, after making the most important statement in defense of public education in this country in the last ten years...a cross section of progressives are willing to admit that Democratic Party education policies, as well as Republican ones, are disastrous, and that you cannot improve schools unless teachers are treated with respect and brought into the center of every discussion which shapes education policy.(btw, the youtube link at the end of this article doesn't work)
The Chicago Teachers Union delegates decided Sunday night not to accept a deal for a new contract from Chicago Public Schools and made plans to resume negotiations Tuesday, effectively prolonging the weeklong teachers strike and ensuring that school would not be in session for the city's public school students for the next two days.
The confrontation between Chicago teachers and Mayor Rahm Emanuel escalated on Sunday when their union extended a strike and the mayor said he would go to court to block the walkout, risking more friction within President Barack Obama's political coalition as the November 6 election nears.
Mayor Emanuel says we will have to close and consolidate public schools to save money to pay for the new union contract. Does anyone in the public have any idea how much money it costs to open a brand new charter school* and pay for the first few years while the school gets up and running? Hundreds of millions of dollars! CPS has an entire department dedicated to soliciting charter proposals, reviewing them, and then supporting the charter during its “incubation period.” Also during this incubation period, the school is not held accountable for its test scores because CPS understands that of course the school will not do well initially.
This is what we want for our children? Parents don’t want their kindergartner, 5th grader or 9th grader acting as guinea pigs for a charter school that might eventually become a good school. There is not a single charter management network that can say that all of its campuses are doing well.
Mayor Emanuel and his charter school friends are complaining that the Chicago Teachers Union strike has kept students out of school for a few days. What about the years that students suffer in low-performing charter schools that are still trying to figure out how to manage themselves as an academic institution? Even the hedge fund billionaires that are behind this push admit that every charter school is not going to succeed–so why are we doing this? Why aren’t we simply looking at what already works, at the 30 percent of CPS’ neighborhood elementary schools that are scoring 85 percent and above–some at 100 percent– on state tests. Why aren’t we replicating that?
Not only is this going to be very costly, but there is evidence that it won’t increase school achievement. It will rob money from where we need it, money that could protect children from the effects of poverty by improving nutrition, health care, and access to books.
- Thank you for the exercising the courage, care, and conviction that has been banished by the national union leadership of the NEA and AFT.
- Thank you for reminding us what leadership looks like.
- Thank you for re-focusing the teacher union movement on the social justice mission for children, which is our calling, our mission, and the fire we carry.
- Thank you for demanding respect, rather than cowering and cutting deals to assuage corporate hacks stuck in a Reagan time warp.
- Thank you for your energy, your pluck, your pride, your determination that makes us all proud again to claim the title of teacher.
- Thank you for explaining the effects on children of teacher evaluation based on test scores, class size extremes, environmental needs of children, resource shortages, personnel cuts, school closures, corporate charter schools.
- Thank you for doing what so many have feared to do and must be done.
- Thank you for your model of impassioned professionalism.
- Thank you for making us look up again, rather than down.
The city’s current reform wave began in 2004 with Mayor Richard Daley’s Renaissance 2010—a massive program, funded in part by $90 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to transform the city’s schools by 2010. The strategy included firing and replacing entire staffs in low-income neighborhood schools, shutting down dozens of schools, and setting up charter schools. When reckoning day came, here is what the Chicago Tribune reported:Six years after Mayor Richard Daley launched a bold initiative to close down and remake failing schools, Renaissance 2010 has done little to improve the educational performance of the city’s school system, according to a Tribune analysis of 2009 state test data. …The moribund test scores follow other less than enthusiastic findings about Renaissance 2010—that displaced students ended up mostly in other low performing schools and that mass closings led to youth violence as rival gang members ended up in the same classrooms. Together, they suggest the initiative hasn’t lived up to its promise by this, its target year.
I am tired of billionaires telling us what we need to do for our children as if they love our children more than we do.
I want them to turn off the air conditioning in 125 South Clark and work like we work. I want them to turn off the air conditioning on the fifth floor of city hall and let them work like we work. I want them to turn off the air conditioning at the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation so they can see what our children have to suffer under.
I want them to come sit in a classroom with peeling plaster and no books and I want them to be evaluated. I want to be evaluated. I want somebody to tell me how I can get better as a teacher. I want them to come in to my classroom and see what it is I do. But while these people have their air conditioners turned off I want these people not to be able to go to the dentist when they have a toothache. I want them to not be able to go to a physician when they are feeling ill. I want them to understand what it means to be hungry...what it means to be homeless...and what it means to be uncomfortable while you give me a test.
I want them to show us where are the billionaires marching? Why do they have so much influence because they can write a check. They only have one vote.
I want to know why, when we ask for textbooks and materials on the first day...on the first day when children walk into a building...that somehow we're being unreasonable. I want somebody to tell me why that is. I want somebody to tell me why asking for more than 325 social workers for a system of 400,000 children is unreasonable. I want you to tell me why you have to test my kindergartners 5 and 6 times a year when they haven't even learned how to play.*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then
In the current climate, where teachers are being blamed for the dire state of our inner-city schools, and where large chunks of our school system are being privatized, it is refreshing to see teachers find their voices. I support the Chicago teachers because they are standing up for quality public education, with more art, music, critical thinking, and with the dignity of educators properly respected. American kids don't need more rhetoric about social justice; they need smaller class sizes, and they need to see adults doing something to solve the problem of priorities in this country. I wish the Chicago teachers all the best. --Jonathan Kozol
Parents have the right to demand that schools meet the needs of their children. Municipalities, however, have the obligation to improve the schools. The trend encouraged by the US DOE, which began with No Child Left Behind and continues unabated with Race to the Top, is to throw schools filled with struggling students away, not fix them. They close schools that are in difficulty, ship the students to other schools, open charter schools, and/or fire teachers and principals. None of those "solutions" deal with the core issues of failing schools. None have any research basis whatsoever. The vast majority of charter* schools don't perform better than the vast majority of regular public schools.
The Friedmanesque obsession with privatizing everything in sight has already brought us high unemployment...and the highest national poverty levels in a generation. Do we want the same people who brought us the banking/Wall Street fiasco telling us what to do with our public schools?
As educators we try to help our students grow, not just academically, but emotionally and personally. The most important moments in a student's school life are generally not when he or she gets an A in a course or on a test. Just like in "real life" the most important moments in school come when children are challenged. Developing a positive response to those challenges is more important than any test or grade.
The ability to face challenges is perhaps the most important skill we learn in life. Developing the courage to face obstacles can mean the difference between a successful life and an unsuccessful one. Courage is not the absence of fear...it doesn't mean you're not afraid. Courage means you face what life offers you despite the fear which threatens to immobilize you.
If "teachers matter" why doesn't the President honor teachers by appointing a teacher as the Secretary of Education? He appointed a doctor as Surgeon General...an attorney as Attorney General...isn't the Department of Education important enough to warrant a professional as it's head?
Until the United States is willing to provide the resources needed to educate all our children there will be those who fail and those who fall through the cracks. Since those children are, according to the research on retention, minorities, poor, and the hardest to educate, they get ignored by all those who don’t work with them specifically. Politicians like to pretend they don't exist...or that it's their own fault. They get the fewest resources, the least experienced teachers, and the most “teaching to the test.” Despite lip service from politicians, our nation’s children, unfortunately, aren’t a national priority.
More testing...more teaching to the test...more basing teacher evaluations on test scores...more money for private schools...more corporate control over public money...more charter schools -- these are not reforms. These are gifts of our tax money to privatizers. They are tools for the removal of public oversight from public education. They are tools for the destruction of the single most important democratizing institution in our society -- the public schools.
The competitive, data driven madness of the current "race to the top" mentality of education, is robbing today's students of the joy of learning. Children are born with the desire to learn. They are natural wonderers...explorers...analysts. Our society's obsessive focus on "data" crushes the wonder and destroys the internal thirst for understanding. The desire to learn is replaced with the need to achieve.
The parent trigger is not about parental rights...or parental power. The parent trigger is a way for edupreneurs to take over public schools and reap a profit at public expense. It's not for the parents. It's not for the students...The parent trigger bills don't give parents more control. They give parents less control. They allow 51% of current school parents to give away the public school to a charter operator. What happens in two years if 51% of the parents want to take the school back for the public schools? The parent trigger bills don't allow for that. Once the schools have been converted they're stuck with what they get. No parental rights. No public oversight.
American students in schools with low poverty are among the highest achievers in the world. Are there schools which are failing or which need improvement? Of course. The schools most in need are in the same locations where government is failing...where politicians are failing...where our society is failing...
The American obsession with rankings and "being number one" has damaged public education. We have never been number one in academic tests yet we've managed to lead the world economically and scientifically (among other things) over the last half century. How is that possible?
Do we blame doctors and hospitals because the United States ranks 37th internationally in health care (behind such places as Luxembourg, Columbia, and Singapore) or 34th in infant mortality rates (which puts us behind Iceland, Slovenia and Cuba)?
We don't have a nation-wide problem with failing schools. What we have is a problem with the failure of our leaders to address the issues facing schools with high levels of poverty. It's time to end the privatization of public education and focus on supporting public schools.
Poverty is not destiny, but in the America of 2012 it's harder to move up the economic ladder than it's ever been. Saying poverty is not destiny is fine...but using it as an excuse to ignore the high levels of poverty in the country and to ignore poverty as a factor in school achievement is wrong...The so-called failure of American education is, in truth, the failure of America. What other nation would accept a poverty rate of almost a quarter of its children?
The teachers are demanding books on the first day of class...manageable class sizes...a well rounded curriculum including the arts...libraries for every school (would Emanuel choose to send his children to a school without a library?) and social workers to help children deal with the violence and the poverty in their lives. The fight is as much about children's working conditions as it is about the teachers' working conditions.
On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers' hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.
3. In CPS, 86% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The relationship between poverty and academics is well documented, but CPS pays little attention to ameliorating poverty’s effects. Poverty is rising in the city, and the percentage of students who are lunch-eligible does not capture the fact that many who were poor before are now even poorer. While CPS has a well-developed program to identify schools to be put on probation, closed, consolidated or turned-around, it does not have an equally robust program for supporting schools in trouble...
...Family income and wealth play a major role in students’ educational development. CTU recognizes that CPS cannot tackle all the housing, health, transportation, and employment inequities that intersect school issues and shape student’s performance in schools. However, as CPS students are 86% low-income and 87% African American or Latino, CPS has a moral and ethical responsibility to put school-level policies in place to mitigate racial and economic inequities.
Fran Feeley, 44, a librarian at Inter-American Magnet School, said he had "mixed-feelings" about the news. While Feeley doesn't want the strike to carry on, he said certain issues need to be addressed.
"I don't accept the idea that charter schools and vouchers and testing kids eight weeks a year is going to solve the problems facing the public schools," he said...
Christopher Barker said he too is ready to be back in the classroom. “I feel like everything has slid a week back,” he said.
Barker, who teaches math and humanities at George Manierre Elementary School, said he needs to finish evaluating his new students, call parents and build his student library.
One of the first things on the agenda, however, will be talking to his students about what the strike meant. “Is there anywhere that you go in life when you do have to speak up for yourself when there’s a perceived injustice?”
Guest post by Katie Osgood.
There is jubilation on the streets of Chicago.
When the teachers of Chicago rise up, they are not defending politics or ideology, they are speaking for actual human beings. They are crying out for the child who could not get appropriate special education services due to lack of staff. They are speaking for the many kids being punished, held back, treated like failures by the cruel standardized tests. They are saying "no" to the truly outrageous class sizes which prevent too many of their most fragile students from getting that individualized attention they deserve. They are begging the district to hire more of the support staff like social workers, nurses, and counselors their students desperately need. They are exposing a system that views students who struggle as liabilities and schools as places of cutthroat competition.
Chicago's teachers are saying "no more". I thank them, and the parents and students, for their sacrifice. The joy of people power is infectious. I hope it spreads.
So do it. Reduce my pension. Make me poor, since I don't qualify for Social Security. Make my medicine unaffordable. Make my raise contingent upon proof that my art lessons somehow improved state math scores. Continue firing at my feet to see how long you can make me dance. It still won't change the fact that life did not work out as you planned and you're now a bitter little turd. AND I will STILL...love my job, because I am rocking this for all the right reasons. After you take every tool and incentive and support away from me, and millions like me, you won't suddenly have anything great that you don't already have. And then you will be terribly disappointed to find out that this isn't a scam after all. Whether decorated or destroyed, inside every school we run on something you can't legislate, isolate, measure or destroy. Much to your inarticulate all caps despair.
The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is so cash-strapped that it plans to close and consolidate under-utilized schools, with rumors that it could be upwards of 120 schools this coming year. Many people would consider this to be fiscally prudent. Mayor Emanuel is of course going to blame the soon-to-be agreed upon new union contract.
What the public does not understand, however, even though both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times have been writing about it for months, is that CPS is also simultaneously planning to open 60 new charter schools in the next few years. That decision was made last year under the “Gates Compact” in which CPS went into an agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to increase charter schools in Chicago.
The way that CPS plans to use test scores in teacher evaluation, referred to as value-added, is so incredibly flawed that almost no one with a knowledge base in this area thinks it’s a good idea.
The National Research Council wrote a letter to the Obama administration warning against including value-added in Race to the Top federal grant program because of a lack of research support. The Educational Testing Service, an organization that stands to benefit tremendously from any expansion of testing, issued a report concluding that value-added is improper test use.
These are the people who know the statistics, and none of them thinks the models work.
Last year the middle class received the smallest share of the nation’s income since these data were first reported, according to U.S. Census Bureau numbers released today. The middle 60 percent of households received only 45.7 percent of the nation’s income in 2011, down from the historical peak of 53.2 percent in 1968.
The declining share of income received by the nation’s middle class has been driven by stagnant incomes for middle-class earners coupled with rapidly rising incomes for the highest earners...And then there is another often overlooked dynamic: the decline of labor unions.
The seven members of Chicago’s Board of Education, along with CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, are, in theory, responsible for the governance of the city’s schools. In reality, they are only accountable to the man that appointed them—Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
As anyone who has ever witnessed a board hearing knows, members like Hyatt heiress Penny Pritzker and former Northwestern President Henry Bienen, when they bother to show up at all, nod indifferently to public testimony, toy with their smart phones, and reliably vote in the interests of their boss. This past winter, after the board voted unanimously to close or turnaround 17 schools, frustrated parents burst into tears, and community members chanted “Rubber Stamp!” until CPS security escorted them out of the room.
Unwilling to accept such belligerent disregard for community input, education organizers and activists have launched a campaign for an elected, representative school board. Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE), a coalition of education groups, circulated petitions this summer to put the question to Chicagoans in an advisory referendum: should the Board of Education be elected instead of appointed by the mayor?
2. Educate The Whole Child. Invest to ensure that all schools have recess and physical education equipment, healthy food offerings, and classes in art, theater, dance, and music in every school. Offer world languages and a variety of subject choices. Provide every school with a library and assign the commensurate number of librarians to staff them.
At the private and selective-enrollment University of Chicago Laboratory School, elementary students have classes in art, music, physical education and world languages several times a week, as well as language arts, social studies, mathematics and science daily. At private and selective-enrollment Francis Parker School, students from 3rd to 12th grade participate in a program called “Morning Ex” (for “Exercise”) three times a week. This program provides students the opportunity to plan and carry out a variety of activities, including teach-ins, sharing of class projects, dramatic performances, outside speakers, and other enriching activities.
In CPS, on the other hand, many elementary students have limited access to physical education, arts education (music, drama, art, dance, choir, band, etc.), library/media instruction, science laboratories, or computer science. Few CPS schools provide world language classes and 160 CPS elementary schools do not even have libraries. Although access to libraries and books can mitigate the impact of poverty on achievement, CPS denies this vital resource to some of its students who need it most.
Overwhelmingly, Chicago’s teachers support lengthening the day, which is the shortest of any major district in the country. Just not the way Rahm wanted to ram it down their throats: 20 percent more work; 2 percent more pay.
At my school, I looked at the calendar for the year, and there are about 15 days where students are being tested on standardized tests. These tests are not designed to help the students. Many of these tests are designed because of No Child Left Behind to measure the school. And now, because of Race to the Top and these new reforms, now these tests are being used to measure teacher performance. So what does that mean? It means that rather than planning rich-inquiry, interesting lessons for our students, we have to focus on very specific tested standards in a very narrow way...
Teachers in Chicago have done their homework. They did not just decide to strike this month. They have laid the groundwork, in a way that should be studied by others around the country. They have made it clear what they are fighting for, and done tremendous work with parents and in the community to build support. While the media has been critical of the union, public support remains strong, with 47% of voters in support, and only 39% in opposition.
This support was hard-won. Teachers in Chicago have been working for several years to build an understanding of what the schools there need. They have presented their OWN vision of reform. In February of this year, they released this report, The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve.
If organized labor is at the heart of the problem, though, why are outcomes in different areas of the country no different whether teachers are unionized or not?
...And let’s not forget why we have teachers unions in the first place: It’s because in the not-so-great old days, mostly female teachers had no recourse when they were fired for no good reason, or were otherwise treated unfairly.
...Teachers in Chicago have decided they won’t back down at an inconvenient time for the president, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. If we really wanted to improve schools, we’d do what education powerhouse Finland does — fund schools equally, value teachers more, and administer standardized testing almost never.
1. Recognize That Class Size Matters. Drastically reduce class size. We currently have one of the largest class sizes in the state. This greatly inhibits the ability of our students to learn and thrive.
Outside of Chicago and within private schools, class size is monitored and small classes are prioritized. For example, in the Matteson School District southwest of Chicago, the average class sizes per grade for elementary and high school are between 16 and 23, with most classes below 20. Compared to CPS, 15% more students meet or exceed Illinois standards in Matteson. At Chicago’s well-regarded Francis Parker School, class sizes reflect the national private school average of 18 students, but high school classes are often smaller. If smaller classes are good for private and suburban students, why are they not a priority for our children?
Does this mean we now have a national movement of teachers united in a collective struggle to defend and improve public education? Not quite. Where teachers already have large organizations — their unions — they rely on them to defend their interests. The problem is that those unions have, by and large, conceded much of the ideological terrain to the billionaire privatizers.
Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, says he wants a longer school day, for example. The CTU has responded, effectively: “No, we want a BETTER school day!” The CTU...demands that funding be restored to the arts, sciences, physical education, counseling, and smaller class sizes. Their research document, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve is a must read.
Evaluations tied to student test performance, class size, job security and more are at the heart of the Chicago dispute and at the center of a national education debate. Are teachers professionals who know the needs of their students and deserve the respect and compensation afforded to professionals? Or are they public workers who can be easily replaced?
The issues that teachers are fighting for go to the heart of improving Chicago's public schools. Chicago has had 15 years of mayoral control, and it hasn't helped improve our schools. Today, 42% of neighborhood elementary schools are not funded for a full-time art or music teacher; 160 Chicago elementary schools don't have libraries. Teachers report classes of more than 43 students and not even enough chairs for them all. And teachers often lack textbooks and other materials up to six weeks after the start of school.
Chicago teachers are calling for a better day, not just a longer day, by investing in art, music and libraries. They are calling for smaller class sizes, investments in neighborhood schools and health care, social workers, meal services and additional services for students.
They want to focus on teaching and learning, and have legitimately objected to the district's fixation on high-stakes testing that is narrowing the curriculum and being used to sanction teachers. And they are calling for a fair evaluation process and additional professional development to help all teachers improve.
...educators are fired up to fight for wraparound services for students, with more school social workers, counselors and psychologists; a holistic educational environment where all students have access to school libraries, world languages, art, music, physical education; and the preservation of the tenure system—because good teachers are made through experience in the classroom.
What started here as a traditional labor fight over pay, benefits and working conditions has exploded into a dramatic illustration of the national debate over how public school districts should rate teachers.
At stake are profound policy questions about how teachers should be granted tenure, promoted or fired, as well as the place standardized tests will have in the lives of elementary and high school students.
One of the main sticking points in the negotiations here between the teachers union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a new teacher evaluation system that gives significant and increasing weight to student performance on standardized tests. Personnel decisions would be based on those evaluations.
The state needs to focus on recruiting, educating and retaining teachers if it wants to improve student academic performance, a state task force has concluded. Recent budget cuts, however, have pushed the state in the opposite direction, according to the task force's report, which was released Monday.The report said,
The advisory task force, which was brought together by state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, also rejected making any link between students' standardized test scores and teachers' performance evaluations.
...leading research organizations have counseled against the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions about teachers. The National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment concluded that: “VAM estimates of teacher effectiveness ... should not be used to make operational decisions because such estimates are far too unstable to be considered fair or reliable.”It didn't say use test scores for 30% of a teacher's evaluation...or 40%...or 50%. It said that tests should not be used for teacher evaluation. Period.
...Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel does not send his kids to public schools. Instead, Emanuel's children attend...the University of Chicago Lab School, where the annual tuition is more than $20,000...
...The Lab School has seven full-time art teachers to serve a student population of 1,700. By contrast, only 25% of Chicago’s “neighborhood elementary schools” have both a full-time art and music instructor. The Lab School has three different libraries, while 160 Chicago public elementary schools do not have a library.
“Physical education, world languages, libraries and the arts are not frills. They are an essential piece of a well-rounded education,” wrote University of Chicago Lab School Director David Magill on the school's website in February 2009.
One of the key sticking points in union negotiations is that Emanuel wants to use standardized tests scores to count for 40 percent of the basis of teacher evaluations. Earlier this year, more than 80 researchers from 16 Chicago-area universities signed an open letter to Emanuel, criticizing the use of standardized test scores for this purpose. “The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children,” they wrote.
CTU claims that nearly 30% of its members could be dismissed within one to two years if the proposed evaluation process is put into effect and has opposed using tests scores as the basis of evaluation. They're joined in their opposition to using testing in evaluations by Magill.
Writing on the University of Chicago’s Lab School website two years ago, Magill noted, “Measuring outcomes through standardized testing and referring to those results as the evidence of learning and the bottom line is, in my opinion, misguided and, unfortunately, continues to be advocated under a new name and supported by the current [Obama] administration.”
The Chicago Teachers Union, parents and the children who educators have chosen to serve, want Americans countrywide to know, there’s a great deal of work to do to create the schools our students deserve. That includes:For more good information about what the CTU is fighting for see Parents, Teachers Hold Forum to Outline What’s at Stake as CPS Strike Looms: ‘They Want to Create New Orleans in Chicago’
- REDUCE CLASS SIZE – The mayor has threatened to put as many as 55 children in one classroom!
- PROVIDE SOCIAL SERVICES CHILDREN NEED – The school board refuses to hire more social workers, nurses and other clinicians at a time when youth violence is skyrocketing.
- INVEST IN ALL SCHOOLS – The school board denies funds to schools in low-income neighborhoods. Our students need equal access to high-quality learning opportunities in every neighborhood school!
- SUPPORT TEACHERS AS PROFESSIONALS – The school board so far refuses to give your school’s teachers, paraprofessionals, and others a fair contract.
- STOP CHARTER EXPANSIONS, turn-arounds, and school closings.
[Public schools] constitute 69 percent of all Chicago schools, but they have received less than 48 percent of...money for building maintenance, repair, and upgrading. In revealing contrast, nine selective-enrollment high schools (charter and magnet) that make up 1 percent of the total number of schools got 24 percent of the money spent on school construction projects...
A quarter of the [public elementary] schools have no libraries, 40 percent have neither either art nor music instruction, while many others must choose one or the other but can’t get both.
Mayor Emanuel sends his children to the private Chicago Lab School—where all of these “extras” are available.
...it really boils down to the fact that we spend $600-some billion a year, the federal government, on education, and the corporations want it. That’s what’s happening. And that comes through charter schools. It comes through standardized testing. And it comes through breaking teachers’ unions and essentially hiring temp workers, people who have very little skills. This is what Teach for America is about. They teach by rote, and they earn nothing. There’s no career. I mean, there’s quite a difference between teaching people what to think and teaching people how to think. And corporate forces want to teach people what to think. It’s a kind of classism. People get slotted. It’s vocational. And so, I see what’s happening in Chicago as, you know, one of the kind of seminal uprisings of our age. And if they don’t succeed, we’re all in deep trouble.
For Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 9:00 AM
Education historian, Diane Ravitch, joins Kathleen Dunn to discuss the teacher strike in Chicago.
Guest: Diane Ravitch, historian of education, educational policy analyst, research professor, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education.
Neither Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger nor Indiana Federation of Teachers President Rick Muir have been closely following the Chicago negotiations, but both say there are similarities regarding concerns about teacher evaluations.
"I personally applaud them for standing up on these issues," Muir said.
Unlike its portrayal as a selfish bully in the 1% Chicago Tribune, the CORE-led CTU has been a partner to community groups fighting for quality public education. Now, hostile contract negotiations have opened a window for the union to elevate the anti-privatization fight to a national level.
As former CPS CEO Arne Duncan continues to spread the hollow gospel of corporate reform as the nation's secretary of education, and as his predecessor Paul Vallas preaches the same throughout South America, it's about time that Chicago, the birthplace of this failed faith, denounces it publicly.
...a lot of the education policy in this country comes from the top, from people that have little or no experience in a classroom, little or no experience in the low-income communities that are disproportionately affected by these reforms. And it was moving to see Chicago united behind the teachers, that are, you know, not just fighting for themselves, but they’re fighting for their students. And that’s something that a lot of people in Chicago and around the country are—have been waiting for and are really prepared to get behind.
...They are fighting the most powerful forces in the country that have an agenda of privatization of school closings, of increasing testing. But [the Chicago Teachers Union] is something to be reckoned with.
Chicago teachers are taking on the education agenda of the one percent, and that means they're taking a beating in the media. But a new poll shows that it would be a mistake to take negative headlines and criticism from pundits and politicians as representative of what Chicago voters think. It turns out that 47 percent support the strike, with 39 percent opposed.