"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, August 13, 2015

2015 Medley #27: Surprise! There's a Teacher Shortage

Surprise! There's a Teacher Shortage

Why are there teacher shortages in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, California, Louisiana...

Over the past few years, I've written about the local and nation-wide impending teacher shortage and why teachers quit. It should come as no surprise to anyone...it has been obvious to anyone who has been paying attention. Teachers have been blamed for all the ills facing public schools especially low achievement...even though we know that low achievement accompanies low income. Poverty implies lower achievement -- no other in-school or out-of-school factor is as consistent. Republican politicians are quick to blame teachers unions, and some Democrats have joined in with that song as well, but blaming unions doesn't explain why there is such low achievement in a state like Mississippi with very few unionized teachers. It doesn't explain why achievement is higher in states like Massachusetts and New Jersey -- states with high union membership and strong unions. Poverty does.


"Reformers" don't seem to be willing to discuss poverty as a factor in school achievement. They don't seem to be willing to expend as many resources and as much energy "fixing" poverty as they do destroying public education. Yet, killing the teaching profession has only made things worse.

On the other hand, is it possible that "reformers" want to destroy the teaching profession along with public schools? No teaching profession means cheap labor as states pass laws allowing anyone to teach...it means no professionals who understand the teaching and learning process and who will call out the practices that get in the way of student learning. It means no pensions...and more profit.

Below are articles about Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Florida...and one final punch in the face to Chris Christie.

MICHIGAN

Another One Bites the Dust

A Michigan middle school math teacher (and Facebook friend of mine) wrote a piece which was picked up by Valerie Strauss, Diane Ravitch, mlive, Common Dreams, and the Huffington Post. We originally posted it on the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) blog and Facebook page.

The teacher, Stephanie, wrote a heartfelt letter explaining why she decided to leave public education and take a job at a private school. In her letter she reported on what Michigan "reformers" have done to damage public education and hurt public school teachers.
...I have been forced to comply with mandates — from the Republicans at the state level and the Democrats at the national level — that are NOT in the best interest of kids. I am tired of having to perform what I consider to be educational malpractice, in the name of “accountability”. The amount of time lost to standardized tests that are of no use to me as a classroom teacher is mind-boggling. And when you add in mandatory quarterly district-wide tests, which are used to collect data that is ignored, you get a situation that is beyond ridiculous...

...due to a chronic, purposeful underfunding of public schools here in Michigan, my take-home pay has been frozen or decreased for the past five years, and I don’t see the situation getting any better in the near future...
Starve the public schools, then blame the teachers for not performing miracles. Drive career teachers out and replace them with cheap temps.

Stephanie explained that she didn't want to leave public education. She was a product of public schools, a public school mom, a public school teacher, and a public school advocate. She has supported public schools throughout her career. Leaving is heartbreaking and difficult for her, but she, like so many others have had enough.

Reactions

Aside from the comments of support...and a few from the usual trolls claiming that teachers are overpaid and have it easy...

...there was an interesting reaction (which also wasn't a surprise) from a public school supporter.

After reading her letter, Jim Horn at Schools Matter focused on the fact that Stephanie attended the last two Network for Public Education (NPE) conferences, and, since he drools in anticipation whenever he has an opportunity to badmouth anything to do with Diane Ravitch, he minimized Stephanie's commitment to fighting for public education as "endless cheerleading." Yes, because she attended the NPE conferences.

Perhaps he wanted her to organize and rally at the state capital. Wait...she's done that.

Perhaps he wanted her to confront legislators and publicly go on record against anti-public school legislation. Wait...she's done that, too.

I've mentioned his Ravitch-bashing before...Anything relating to Diane Ravitch is fair game for his attacks. I think it's clear he's jealous that Diane Ravitch has actually done something productive by forming the NPE to help support public education. Then there's the fact that she has a large following...whereas all he can do is complain that we all don't agree with him 100% of the time.

I'm not going to link to his blog. If you want to read what he wrote you can google it.

INDIANA

Indiana’s got a problem: Too many teachers don’t want to work there anymore

Senate Education Committee Chair, and State Senator Dennis Kruse and his House counterpart, Representative Robert Behning want to "study" why there is a teacher shortage in Indiana. Behning has spent the last 15 years bashing teachers and trashing public schools. He entered the House of Representatives in 1992 as a Florist...but now he runs an "educational lobbying company." Both have worked to make public education less public.
The teacher shortage in Indiana is becoming such a problem that some state lawmakers want a legislative committee to study the issue and come up with solutions. According to the Indianapolis Star, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate education committees have asked General Assembly leaders to approve having the legislative education study committee review what is causing the drop and how the state could respond.

For one thing, they can look in the mirror. The Republican leadership of the state — including Gov. Mike Pence — showed their respect for teachers by working very hard this year to strip power from Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a veteran educator who won election to the post in 2012 (by defeating Tony Bennett, the incumbent who was a protege of former Florida governor Jeb Bush). Oh, by the way, she is a Democrat. David Long, the Republican president of the Indiana Senate, said while explaining why the legislature would want to remove Ritz as chairman of the state Board of Education: “In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, okay?”


Why a teacher shortage? Try asking a teacher

A former principal understands what is driving student failure. He also understands that giving wealthy schools and poor schools equal per pupil funding is inherently unequal.
...To take inner-city resources (Indianapolis, Gary, etc.) to reward “A” schools (Carmel, Zionsville, etc.), which already have abundant resources, is immoral. In other words, the competitive model of accountability does not fit in a democratic institution that cannot afford to have winners and losers.

Everyone should have the opportunity to grow and learn. Since not every child is blessed equally, it is incumbent upon policy makers to help overcome this difference by allocating resources where they are needed most. Current policies do just the opposite. Is it any wonder why inner-city schools will have the hardest time filling teaching positions?

Your solution, offering monetary rewards based on a test, is insulting to those who know the vagarious nature of such tests, and it falsely assumes teachers just need to work harder. Such extrinsic rewards miss the point. If the goal is to attract people to the profession, we should start by realizing teachers are motivated by something much more meaningful than money.

...A teacher shortage? It was inevitable. It seems everyone saw it coming but the ones who tried making policy in a vacuum devoid of solid, authentic research and educational expertise.

So, chairmen Kruse and Behning are forming a committee to study the cause of a shortage they helped create. I have a suggestion: call a teacher — any teacher — and ask them. They’ll give you the answer.


KANSAS

Kansas Underfunded Education And Cut Tenure. Now It Can't Find Enough Teachers To Fill Classrooms.

Kansas has joined with other states in the process of destroying their own public education system. Do they wonder what's causing the teacher shortage?
Teachers are being forced to do more with less, and not necessarily getting appreciated for it, said Dean Katt, superintendent of Hays Public Schools.

“Teachers are working many more hours, much harder. They’re doing it on their own and don’t have the support we should be giving them,” said Katt.

He continued, “[They face] constant bashing from the governor and legislature, [who] in my opinion are trying to privatize education and just destroy it.”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment regarding the teacher shortage.

A Memo To States: This Is How You Create A Teacher Shortage

A satirical, but accurate look at how to destroy a profession. The links were included in the original. With very little effort we could also provide links to the same sorts of sites for Indiana...
The How To Create A Teacher Shortage Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup of rhetoric against teachers

2 pounds of bills and programs that attempt to de-professionalize teaching (specifically, a proposed bill that would make it easier to jail teachers for teaching materials deemed offensive and a new program that lifts teacher licensure requirements in certain districts)

3 tablespoons of a lack of due process rights for teachers

½ cup of finely diced repeated budget cuts amid a state revenue crisis

1 stalk of a new school funding system that is currently being challenged in state court

2 grinds of growing child poverty throughout the state

3 tablespoons of low teacher pay

1/3 cup of large numbers of teacher retirements

FLORIDA

Brevard teachers leave ‘in droves’ for other jobs

Jeb's legacy is still strong.
Teachers in Brevard County have cited low morale as their main concern about teaching here — and many are leaving the district for greener pastures.

Four pages worth of resignations and retirements filled part of the last school board’s agenda, citing personal reasons, relocations and other employment. On this agenda item, 73 teachers resigned and 80 retired.

According to human resources information from Brevard Public Schools that is just one fragment of the group of teachers leaving. Data show that 368 teachers voluntarily resigned this year, the biggest number in the past five years — however that is not too far off from the 365 who voluntarily resigned or retired over the 2014-15 school year.


The Single Most Destructive Force in Public Education

Chris Christie said that he wanted to punch the "national teachers union in the face" and teachers unions were "the single most destructive force in public education." Apparently Christie doesn't know that states with strong teacher unions have higher student achievement than states with weak or non-existent unions.

Russ Walsh turns the tables on Christie.
...The single most destructive force in public education is income inequity. Poverty has a devastating impact on a child’s educational achievement. With 25% of school children living in poverty, it is small wonder public education is struggling in impoverished areas.

The second most destructive force in public education is politicians and corporate education reformers who wish to ignore income inequity and blame teachers unions for the problems in public education. Teachers and their unions, want a strong viable system of public education. We would like politicians and well- financed reformers to work with us and stop threatening to punch us. [emphasis added]

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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